The book ‘To Siri, With Love’ is about the true story of a pretty ‘strange’ household. How strange? For one, the husband and wife have separate apartments (I don’t mean that they sleep in separate rooms or beds. They each have their own homes) and when their twin boys were conceived, the dude was actually 69 years old (he’s 30 years older than his wife). When the kids were born, the woman’s already 40 and one of the twin boys (Gus) was later found to have autism. It’s neither politically correct nor polite to say “I’m sorry your child is autistic” (‘cos what is there to be sorry about?) or “What were you thinking… having children when both of you aren’t exactly young anymore?” But it’s what I thought of saying to the author (when reading the book) if I do end up meeting her someday. But that would be discounting the fact that the couple took 7 years (and according to her, $70,000) with 5 or 6 miscarriages along the way, before they eventually had their twins.
It seems they TOTALLY missed certain signs or else they won’t be surprised that one child (or two) doesn’t turn out entirely ‘normal’ (but let’s not debate what normal means now). The couple live apart as John doesn’t like loud noises, gets upset when pillows aren’t arranged properly or when his mug is not in the part of the cabinet that he expects to find it in, and he also cannot leave a room without closing all the drawers. Judith herself doesn’t like to be touched (but sex is fine). Are they somewhere on the spectrum too? It’s anybody’s guess.
I love everything about the book, except for one portion. So here’s what I love… first:
- The innocence and genuineness that Gus has. His mother says that “if he becomes, say, a Walmart greeter, when he wishes you a nice day he will mean it with all his heart.” How many times have we heard “Thank you for coming” / “See you again!” from a salesperson who’s actually checking out her manicure or doing something else altogether, instead of looking at you and smiling sincerely?
- That technology has probably saved the sanity of parents with autistic kids. Gus chats with Siri for hours at a time, and she (it?) patiently answers all his questions. “In a world where the commonly held wisdom is that technology isolates us, it’s worth considering another side of the story.”
- Autistic people teach us that there is another way to live / be. Gus “thinks that everyone is his friend… has no idea about sarcasm or competition or envy or ambition.” I think the bit about envy and sarcasm is useful. If we could live without envying others (all you gorgeous people with curated pictures of your lives on Instagram!), wouldn’t we enjoy Life even more?
What I find difficult to accept is that while the author (obviously) thinks it’s fine to make babies with someone in his late-sixties and already has a child from a previous marriage, she wants Gus to either be a homosexual or get a vasectomy so he won’t be able to procreate. Wow. Just wow.
“My lifelong hopes that Gus was gay – what gay man doesn’t adore his mother?”
“I do not want Gus to have children… Gus should not be a parent.”
“I will insist on having medical power of attorney, so that I will be able to make the decision about a vasectomy for him after he turns 18.”
I really don’t know what to say. On one hand, this book presents lots of information about autism (that I didn’t know before) and I am learning a bit more about some of the (strange) things autistic kids might do, such as ignoring me or coming within two inches of my face to talk to me. But it makes me feel like screaming “WHY DID YOU HAVE A KID WITH SOMEONE IN HIS SIXTIES?!” and “WHY ARE YOU STOPPING YOUR OWN KID FROM PROCREATING – YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO BUT HE DOESN’T?”
So… this book leaves me very dissatisfied. ‘Cos I can’t do the screaming bit. 😀 😀
I hope the author changes her mind about “sterilising” her child and hopefully, Gus himself stays positive forever. The odds aren’t very good: “A 2015 study in the British Journal of Psychiatry found that people with so-called “high-functioning autism” are about ten times more likely to commit suicide than those in the general population.”
Finally, there’s this funny bit about the author’s plastic surgery, which totally reminds me of someone (I’d better not say who) who got a nosejob and also has an autistic kid with her (old) nose. These two mothers really should meet. 😀
Like Judith’s pal said to her:
“He’s got your nose – well, your old nose. Why don’t you get him your new nose? Is your plastic surgeon still in business?”
*If getting him a vasectomy is on the cards, getting him a nosejob shouldn’t raise too many eyebrows. 😛