Living with a 5 year old boy that has autism is like living with a senile, hard of hearing, petty grandmother. They both constantly repeat the same stories, conveniently ignore the crap out of you, and unapologetically throw your mistakes in your face.
When I was a kid I really liked hanging with my grandma until she suddenly started acting differently one day. Now this is going to sound crazy but the last few weeks my nephew Eli’s behavior has been so similar to my late cranky grandmother’s. I feel like I’m having ptsd flashbacks!
Petty should have been my dad’s mama’s middle name. Since her first name was Halloween (no lie), I guess she needed to have some fun at the expense of others. No one was off limits, not even us grandkids. My teenage years were the most brutal when she made fun of my skinniness and awkwardness then later my thick thighs and popularity. Grandma declared that my “good hair” and sassy attitude was evidence I was “fast” with the boys. For some reason she always brought up my hair and imagined promiscuity at the same time — as if one had something to do with the other.
When I was 16 I got my first real hairstyle by cutting off my long hair to achieve a super short pixie cut. Grandma almost died when she saw it, grabbed her chest and everything. Tears filled her eyes as she sincerely asked, “Well what you gone do now? You den cut off all your hair and dem ugly lil boys ain’t gone like you no mo’!”
I was so confused. Was she throwing shade or was she legit sad that I cut my hair and worried about my romantic future? Either way I was not about to tell her that I got my first real boyfriend right around the same time I cut my hair. First boyfriend and I successfully dodged grandma for about two years. Every time I saw her she would tell me how so-and-so said they met him or saw us together. Finally one day she just came out and asked me if I was ashamed of her.
Me: No, grandma! Never.
Grandma Halloween: I can’t tell. You don’t never come around no mo’.
Me: I’m just busy with school grandma.
Grandma Halloween: Oh, you embarrassed for your boyfriend to see your grandma cos I don’t talk all good from school like y’all.
Me: It’s not that at all grandma. I’ll bring him soon. Promise.
I immediately regretted promising and decided to minimize the potential damage by giving my boyfriend some guidelines.
Me to first boyfriend: five minutes in and out. Don’t say anything okay?
First boyfriend: (laughing) can I say hi?
Me: no. Imma tell her you went to the dentist today or something.
First boyfriend thought I was being extreme but I knew better. At first grandma seemed all sweet and nice-old-lady like. She even directed all her questions to me.
Grandma Halloween: Baybee does your friend want something to eat?
Me: No thanks grandma, we can’t stay long.
Grandma Halloween: He ain’t a vegetablarium like you is he?
Me: No grandma, he’s not a vegetarian.
Five minutes had passed and the questions were on rapid fire. I told grandma we had to leave. We made it all the way to the door and first boyfriend said, “Nice meeting you.” WHY WHY WHY did he talk?!?
Grandma Halloween: Nice meeting you too baybee, I was worried you didn’t know how to talk!
First Boyfriend: (chuckle) no I can talk.
Grandma Halloween: well tell me this baybee, when you gone marry my granddaughter?
Me: Grandma!!!! I’m just 18, it’s gonna be a long time before I get married.
Grandma Halloween: Well they always say the fast ones be the last ones. Good night y’all.
I was mortified. My own grandma all but called me a ho in front of my boyfriend. First boyfriend was bent over in laughter but I was devastated. Grandma out smarted and out pettied me again.
So, you may be wondering how any of this has to do with my cute, little, innocent nephew? Just like grandma, Eli is not innocent and is petty as hell! You see, Eli and I are pretty close and he is a tiny bit spoiled by his auntie. Like most guys, Eli doesn’t like sharing. Also like most guys, he has challenges communicating.
The past few weeks he’s been randomly talking to any and everybody about the last couple of guys I dated. Most people don’t understand what he’s talking about because it’s difficult for Eli to translate his thoughts into words.
So they don’t get that when Eli says, “Bye-bye-Sean is gone forever!” Or “Winston got on a plane. Winston is NOT flying back.”, he’s talking about me dating.
And just like with most guys I haven’t quite figured out what he’s trying to say to me but I’m pretty sure he’s feeling some-type-of-way about me dating.
In all seriousness, of course I know that Eli isn’t trying to embarrass or shame me. Maybe he’s just searching for a way to get some reassurance that he will always be special to me. Maybe that’s all that grandma wanted too — and just like Eli she struggled to find the words to say so.
Lord knows there was no one else like Grandma Halloween and there is only one completely irreplaceable Eli. No amount of dates or “planes” or “bye-byes” can change that!