There are so many things to love about Benjy that are Aspergian things. Like the way he owns every piece of information about surprising things. Ant wars in Texas, for instance. Or the reason why sloths are slothful (their diet, of course!), and where they live and what lazy-making things they eat. Or all the language that is used to describe what we do with and for computers. And how to solve problems of most sorts (except the mathematical kind). Encounters with Ben are generally enlightening affairs.
But some encounters with Benjy are not. The rodent impersonation, for example, does not educate or inspire admiration, although it is good for a few chuckles. I used to think I needed to divert such antics, that other kids would take one look at him and think: loser! I used to assume I needed to warn him, "Only do that at home, or with people you trust." But he is smarter than I thought. He never, as far as I know, does the rodent imitation at school or in an unsafe place. And now I think differently about his quirky things. So what if he squeaks and chatters like a mouse, hands curled mouse-like under his chin, and some kid thinks he's weird? Or some perfectly-coiffed mom gives me a Look? I care if he cares, but if he doesn't, then let him be himself, "normalcy" be damned.There is something charming about that chattering mouse, and something absolutely endearing about the boy who channels him.
When Ben was in the hospital, I heard from one of the staff how he announced in group therapy that he has Asperger's Syndrome. The other boys expressed polite surprise. "Really, you do? I would never have known that."
To which Benjy replied, "Of course. Why do you think I'm so weird?"
"Weird" is not a word we have ever used to describe Benjy or any other person with Asperger's. (Although I will confess to calling Lars weird at times, especially in reference to odd things he eats. Lars can take it.) I laughed when I heard he'd said this, because I did not know what else to do. What I felt, though, was dismay. How sad that remark was!
I felt better when the staff member finished her story. What Benjy said next was this: "Yeah, I have Asperger's, and I'm a little weird, but the smartest people in the world have Asperger's, too. They're all scientists and programmers and stuff like that. Bill Gates has Asperger's."
I hope they were all impressed. I know I was. (Although I don't know if Bill Gates really has Asperger's. I would like to think that he does.)
Lars and Saskia and I have come to cherish the things about Benjy that other people might see as "off." The monologues you think will never end, but then, after eight minutes, they do. The way he emerges from his room in the morning with his shirt on backwards and inside out -- yes, he is halfway to twelve, and no, he doesn't care. These things make me smile.
Ben is so damned lovely, backwards and inside out. I like him that way. Because that's how I know who he is.