Continuation of post Cue From You..........

We teach our children that honesty is the best policy, but we really don't mean it, do we? We teach them that not all lies are bad. A little, white lie is okay if it saves someone's feelings. We grow up to be diplomatic and learn to not always say what comes to mind. Most autistics have a difficult time with equivocation. Growing up, my son, a high functioning autistic, was no exception.  

He would often use a descriptor that most of us would find rude or just plain insulting but for him it was just a way to identify to whom he was referring. 

He was about six years old when we were at a convenient store and my son spotted someone interesting to him. "Mom, look at that fat man wearing overalls." The fat man who was 300-plus pounds turned around and said, "If you think I'm fat, you should see my brother." The situation, which could have easily been awkward, was diffused instead by the kindness of that hefty stranger. 

Driving home from grade school, we passed an elderly woman wearing a pink housecoat and furry slippers who was retrieving items from her mailbox.  "Look at that old lady. She's dressed for bed." His assessment was on the mark even if it wasn't the nicest way to describe the older woman. 

Not even family members were safe from his brutal honesty.  We had three generations under one roof when my son started high school. My mother lived with us for 11 years until she passed away in 2019. 

His grandmother was not in a good mood one day, so he asked why she was so crabby. She flippantly replied it was because she was old. He simply agreed with her, "Yes, you are."  She had no comeback for that. 

Like most families, we gathered with his aunts, uncles and cousins for holidays. We hosted quite a few since my mother lived with us. My mother usually did the cooking and for Easter she made a chicken dish for the main course. We were all seated at the dining room table, talking as we loaded our plates. My son who was more intent on eating than conversing was the first to dig into the chicken. He blurted out, "Grandma this chicken is dry." To her credit, his grandma just laughed as I scolded my son for being indelicate. But his uncle told me to stop saying my son was correct. The chicken was dry!

To his credit, my son eventually learned if you don't have anything nice to say, say nothing at all. However, if asked, he'd deliver his unmitigated opinion. 

We were hosting Thanksgiving one particular year, so I was in charge of cooking the turkey, my mother made dessert and my sister brought a few side dishes which included a corn casserole for the dinner. It was a new recipe she had made for the first time.

Halfway through the meal, my sister turned to my son and asked how he liked the corn dish she brought. "It's kinda tasteless."  OUCH! I tried to scold him about his poor choice of words, but his aunt came to his defense. "I knew he'd tell me the truth. That's why I asked him. I think it's rather tasteless, too." Needless to say, we never had that dish again. 

One of the most astute but indelicate statements my son ever made came on the day we were burying his grandma's ashes. My uncle, my mom's youngest brother and only remaining sibling, came in from South Carolina and stayed at our house in order to attend the memorial service. 

Grandma's remains were ensconced in an urn on the fireplace mantle in the living room. We needed to take the urn with us to the cemetery along with a small pile of leaflets of the prayers and scriptures that were to be read at the burial site as well as printed directions to the cemetery. We all got ready, piled into my car  and started on our way.  

We had driven about a mile down the road when I asked, "Do we have everything?" My front-seat passenger, my uncle, turned to me and said, "We forgot your mom." We had left her ashes on the mantle at the house. 

I made a quick U-turn and raced back to the house silently cursing myself. From the backseat, in that deadpan voice of his, my son said, "Grandma's dead but she's STILL causing trouble." My uncle and I immediately burst out laughing. Yeah, she was, wasn't she. Tension instantly dissipated.

That honesty also extended to what he did, not just what he said. He was in middle school at the time. We had just left the grocery store with a cartful of groceries when he suddenly veered off, headed for a nearby cart corral. He had spotted a 12-pack of soda that had been left forgotten on the lowest shelf of a cart. He grabbed it, and without a word to me, took it inside the store, turning it into the customer service counter. He told a store employee at the counter that someone had forgotten it and might come back to get it. He never considered keeping it for himself.

When he was a grade-schooler, he found a five-dollar bill underneath a table at a sit-down restaurant as we were being seated for dinner. He showed me the crumple bill and I asked him what he thought he should do with it. He wanted to find out who lost it. I told him that would probably be too difficult. So, he settled on giving it to our waitress since she might know to whom it belonged.  He was an optimist too. I didn't try to dissuade him from that. 

Part of the charm of an autistic is their honesty. My son could be honest to the point of being brutal. Yet there was never any malice behind his frank pronouncements. His bluntness was never intended to inflict hurt or harm. In a way, his plain speaking was kind of comforting. You never had to guess what was on his mind. When he was younger, he'd blurt out whatever he thought. As an adult, all you have to do is ask. He'll tell you without mincing words.

As he got older, he never learned to lie but he did learn to rein in that brutal honesty. Now if asked a loaded question such as, "Does this outfit make your mother look fat?", he will cock his head, say "Hmmm", wait a heartbeat, then turn and walk away. That's as diplomatic as he gets. But at least it's a form of diplomacy. That skill helps him live in our world his way.

* The email will not be published on the website.