The Fear of an Autism “Incident”

I am not new to embarrassing situations. Teghan can display some odd behavior; sometimes controllable, often times not. That latter part is what makes me nervous. What behavior will it be?

Wait. What behavior WILL it be?

I asked Dave, “What’s the most embarrassing thing that Teghan has ever done? I mean, a time when you were truly made uncomfortable by her behavior?”

He couldn’t think of much. And neither could I.

Now, there are uncomfortable moments that come from having to explain to someone why she is acting the way she does, but that does not feel embarrassing. It’s more irritating than anything. Also, thanks to the fact that Teghan’s autism is somewhat obvious we don’t get stupid reactions based on assumptions that she is just spoiled (in-laws excluded).

And yes, we are extremely uncomfortable with having to watch her constantly, never feeling relaxed, and often having a terrible time with her at social gatherings. I would call it stressful. But hardly embarrassing.

The worst things we could come up with were instances of her stealing food off other people’s plates, dumping drinks out on purpose, putting her hands down her pants, chewing on other people’s belongings…. A little embarrassing, but given our circumstance it could be worse. People tend to be understanding.

So what am I afraid of? Is that it?

Like I mentioned before, I am not new to embarrassing situations. Dave has epilepsy. He had surgery for it in 2007, and I am happy to report that the surgery ruined our finances was successful. Although he has had a few seizures since, and still takes medication, he has not had a seizure in over two years.

What does this have to do with being embarrassed, you ask? Well, before that surgery he was having many seizures– often daily. Usually they were in his sleep, and I had the bruises to prove it. But once in a while he would put on a show right in the middle of the day. This went on for the first thirteen years I knew him, so I could usually see it coming. 

His eye would twitch, just a little. That gave me enough time for split second damage control, if possible. My reflexes for moving drinks off a table were AMAZING. The seizure would only last a minute or two, and when he came out of it he would be just fine, but those two minutes were like a tornado. He would yell. Sometimes he swore. He would grab things around him, knocking everything to the floor or sending things across the room. He had no control, and Dave is 6’4”. He could trash a room in no time. We lost a lot of furniture, and we never had a bed frame for more than a week.

Dave has had a seizure just about everywhere. Churches. Movie theaters. Grocery Stores. Restaurants…..

Restaurants were the worst.

One time we decided to try a new Mexican restaurant. Toward the end of our meal, I went to use the rest room. As I was returning to our table, a frantic woman rushed up to me and said, “Hurry! There’s something wrong with the man you were sitting with!” Of course, I already knew.

As I turned the corner, I saw a familiar sight. Six tables and assorted chairs were overturned. Food was everywhere. There was a crowd of people standing around our table. Dave was on all fours, starting to come to, and looking around wildly– with a little drool. Someone reassured me that they had already called 911, and I guess all eyes were now on me to see what should happen next.

I calmly said it would not be necessary, he would be fine. I started picking up tables and cleaning while the crowd looked at me like I had lost my mind. Clearly I had missed the emergency. What else could I do? Some of these people were watching their dinner slide down the wall. No injuries; but usually people could sense they should get the hell out of there as soon as Dave fell to the floor. Dave, now getting to his feet and taking in the scene, began (with slurred speech, and that drool) to apologize to everyone while he grabbed a rag to help with the mess. The frightened staff told us not to worry about it, and so we thanked them and left.

We can never go back there. And yes, it was embarrassing. We also laughed about it for weeks because it was funny, and because it was so typical of our world. Those people were entertained, and I bet they told some friends. I could write a post a day on our epilepsy adventures…..

How many cars passed the Dunkin Donuts on Western Avenue one night to see all the tables upside down, coffee streaming down the windows, a man lying on the floor, and two people casually talking at the bar like nothing was happening?

Where are the women who once went to a movie and had a man actually leap over the seats into their laps causing them to flee the theater?

Who remembers the morning that man screamed bad words during prayer time at church?

That was us.

But do you know what? Teghan has never done anything like that. Not even close. Could she? Maybe. Luckily I could still keep her from leaping onto unsuspecting theater guests if I wanted to. Not that I am always skilled in physical prevention. There have been times when she was trapped in a shopping cart because I was too short to lift her out while she clung for dear life (okay, add that to the embarrassing list from earlier). But what on earth am I afraid of? Obviously that is something we can handle, and even laugh at.

The truth is, I know the crazier the incident is, the more hilarious it will be. So I welcome it. I hope the next time we go out to eat she poops herself and throws it on someone’s plate one table over.

That will be a story we (and they) will tell for years to come.

3 thoughts on “The Fear of an Autism “Incident”

  1. Oh this one had me giggling, I remember the first time I ever saw him have a seizure, scared the shit out of me and I think I leapt over 3 van seats to get to the front, you calmly held him down by his shirt, I was amazed at you, still am.

    Your ability to laugh at those situations is pretty great.

  2. Pingback: Where Everybody Knows Your Name | DAYDREAMS FROM THE SPECTRUM

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