Goose Rocks Beach Laura and me late 1960’s and then me and family on occasion my father and sister’s Memorial 2022. These last couple of years so many transitions, my sister Laura, my father, and then my mother.
My father had left us exquisitely detailed written instructions on how to conduct his memorial service, complete with parking instructions and tide recommendations to assure the ashes went out to sea. As my Brother-in-Law John Graves and I stood in the water about to dump the ashes, I couldn’t feel the current so I doubted my father’s instructions. I should not have doubted. See the beautiful video made by Christopher here. As part of my processing of my father’s Alzheimer’s, I also made a short film about the devastation of Alzheimer’s. It had a wonderful film festival run, even won a few awards, and can now be seen here.
Within a few months of the service, my mother Barbara Snyder, also passed away. Obit here. Thanks to Fajar’s suggestion, the kids, he and I were able to visit her while she was still her feisty self. Shortly thereafter, she developed pneumonia and went into hospice. I was able to be with her just before she passed away. To this day, I’m surprised about how devastating her death has been. On the positive side I re-established connections for myself and my kids with our family on my father’s side who still summer in Goose Rocks Beach.
And on my mother’s side who live in Old Saybrook, CT. My aunt Joyce and my Uncle Peter Levine were especially helpful to me in my mother’s final times. Here they are with me, Fajar, my brother and his wife, Debbie.
I had my own transition, not really physical, but psychological. It started on a Sunday in June 2022, Pride Month and sunny in Seattle. I should have been joyful, but was lonely. Fajar was out of town in Indonesia and I didn’t have a regular friend group. I had a lot of wonderful acquaintances but no “lets get together at the last minute” or “you should come over and hang out” type of friends. In fact, I hadn’t had intimate friends since the mid 1980’s when I was in medical school. I had always chalked it up to being: busy, kinda snobby, East Coast Jew never fitting into Seattle social norms. But superiority was no comfort. I craved company.
I went to church… by myself… During the opening music, my sister Laura, who had passed away a couple of years ago, came to me in a vision, and in her usual straight-to-the-point way: “Richard, you’re autistic, like Dad, like your son, like my son.” Cue “Ratatouille” moment: a rapid montage of my entire life starting with my squinting habit as a child and ending with the lonely Pride Month. My entire life of social failures now made complete sense. I was so ashamed. I thought I was superior but the reality was that everyone saw the autism except me. And to complete the moment, I threw in a dash of hopelessness. I had thought that making friends was going to happen as soon as I put my mind to it and now I knew that putting my mind to it wouldn’t help.
As usual I threw money at the problem, coaching sessions, therapy, books. I did get a positive insight: I’m not an asshole, I’m disabled… and I’m an asshole. I also understood that in my main creative hobby, scenic acting, I was working harder than my neurotypical scene partners to exhibit authentic social behavior. So, I also decided to get off the scripted acting treadmill. In the autistic way of jumping from one obsession to the next, I’m doing story telling and stand up comedy because, what can I say, I like to monolog which is also apparently also an autistic thing. Also check out my social media videos, TikTok, Instagram, Youtube. My brand “Over 60 trying to be young but…”
Fajar, seen here humoring me via humoring a goat during my birthday request of “Goat Yoga,” has been enjoying a lot of success as a mental health consultant for childcare providers and families and has decided to go back to school to get an MSW so he can do clinical work in addition to administrating programs. I can see the excitement and nervousness in him as he leaps into this next adventure and I’m so happy for him. I must note that he was kind enough to not mention my autistic insistence on the whole Goat Yoga situation.
Rose, seen here humoring me.. yes… Goat Yoga, would be happy to tell you how she had a wonderful plan for my birthday, complete with gourmet food on the shore, but that I had sabotaged it in my autistic way by insisting on Goat Yoga. Rose is “killing it” (wrong word maybe) as a Public Defense Attorney and has just gotten promoted to felonies. I’m so proud of her dedication to her job and her clients, and I’m in awe of her expertise. Her dog, Boo, remains highly neurotic despite some therapy appointments where he was diagnosed as having low self-esteem. The treatment: a “maze” dog bowl where he has to work hard to eat his food. Rachel, who is a Zen Buddhist and Jungian therapist fully supports the Boo treatment regimen. There’s probably some illustrative Zen Koan: If the dog finds eating difficult, he will cease biting male humans. One could spend centuries meditating on that one. My take: in what universe is low self-esteem resolved by making eating difficult? I don’t want to live in that universe.
Christopher seen here, yeah, he’s humoring me on the whole Goat Yoga thing. He was happy to point out that Fajar and I having arrived late missed the goats’ dramatic entrance when they ran in pooping and peeing everywhere, being chased by the husband of the yoga instructor with a Dustbuster and rag, Christopher thinking he had escaped the excrement only to be bitten by a yogi goat, thereby further reinforcing the negative consequences of my autistic focus on weird things. He is on the verge of graduating from Evergreen State College and has applied to Western Washington University to study geology. I’m excited to see him excited about a field of study that also has income potential. There I said it, yes I like the income potential. I’m not an asshole. I’m disabled. But I do like that he has such a love of learning.
What is the most common question to a 62 year old anestheisologist? “So…. When are you thinking about retiring?” I will interpret that question as having kindness behind it. I’m thinking age 65, the average retirement age for an anesthesiologist, when Medicare kicks in and when Fajar is finished with school. Then perhaps a life part time in Seattle where the kids are and part time in Palm Springs where, at least in theory, a good social life can be had even by an autistic East Coast gay Jew who likes to monolog.