My marriage is like a presidential term in office. I have my high points, and I have my low points, and my constituents - meaning my wife - generally thinks I'm a fool. Usually she's right. But there's one thing on which we don't agree. That's the word autism.
Whenever I say that our daughter is autistic, she grits her teeth and growls like she's a jungle cat and you're stepping on her tail. It's not because she is in denial. It's because she is a Nazi.
"Don't say that she is autistic." she told me - for the umpteenth time. "Say she is someone with autism."
I carefully weigh my arguments, and marshal my logical points. "Balls to that," I said. "I don't really see the difference."
"You should: it's about how people will view her. Do they see her as autistic first, or as Natalie first?"
I slapped my forehead. "Holy cow, we're the ones in control of how other people see things? All we have to do is make a couple of grammatical backflips with our sentences, and whammo, they see Natalie different?"
A little over the top, I admit. I am one for hyperbole. She glared at me. "It's about how you frame it."
"I don't want to frame it," I huffed. "Why do I have to accommodate the world? Why can't it accommodate me?"
"You're going to blog about this. Aren't you?"
I tried to make a graceful exit. "It's tough to come up with material."
"Especially if you're an idiot," she said.
"Don't say I'm an idiot. Say I'm someone with idiocy."
"No," she corrected. "I'm someone with an idiot. You are an idiot." Her eyes narrowed. "You're going to make me look like the screwball, aren't you?"
"History is viewed through the eyes of those that write it," I offered, and ducked out.
I'm not trying to trivialize autism, and this may be nothing more than an internal defense mechanism kicking in, but what else should I do about it? My daughter is autistic, and we're going to carry on living our lives with it always being with us. Why not laugh about it?
And who knows. Maybe laughing about it is the right message to send to Natalie. It might actually be the thing that makes the difference.