Taken from a chapter of my life from 2014
When my boys were little, they loved to take the cushions off the couch to make a boy sandwich; the two cushions were the bread and the boys were the filling.
Every time we played this game, my middle son Spencer would shout out enthusiastically, “I am the CHEESE! I am the CHEESE!!”
And since neither Alex nor Logan wanted to be “the cheese” Spencer actually got his way.
Sandwiched between his two autistic brothers, Spencer has never had first dibs on pretty much anything. He has assumed, ie been forced into the role of peace maker, negotiator, soother, sacrificer, sympathizer and protector, ands all before he turned four.
Being the cheese for Spencer means; never riding shotgun when Alex is around, taking the second stool, because there is an order to things people!! He’s had to leave parties early, field awkward questionsZz, been wrongfully accused, asalaland repeat verbatim exactly what Logan wants him to say during any given game for hours at a time.
“Now you say not today Buzz!!” And then I’ll hit you…
I am consistently amazed at how he absorbs the force of duress with the strength and grace of Ghandi. Spencer often leaves me reeling from his examplesaaaal .z
Spencer was sitting next to Alex at the dining room table. I was standing between the two boys, chatting while we waited for Russ to come down to dinner. Spencer was playing on his Kindle and Alex said, “Spencer! No electronics at the table.” Spencer calmly replied, “Dude, dad’s not here lyet and besides I’m already turning it off.” “NO ELECTRONICS!” Alex bellowed. “You’re not my parent!” Spencer had the audacity to quietly assert. So, naturally, Alex picked up his full glass of lemonade and promptly threw it directly in Spencer’s face. “Not. Cool.” Spencer said, while swiping his wet hair off his forehead. (It is surprising that I am still surprised when something like this happens. Mostly, I am surprised when it comes out of right field. If he’s already upset, I expect it, but the instant “snapping” without warning sometimes leaves me stunned & unresponsive) “Stop!” I yelled, but not before Alex had grabbed another glass of water, and flung it at Spencer’s retreating form, efficiently soaking our entire dinner, and just before Russ came casually strolling into the room, he’d managed to throw another two glasses as well.Spencer gearing up for snorkling; Maui, Hawaii 2012 I am an expert at handling meltdowns; but in this particular moment, exhaustion had made me sag under the weight of conflict, I had been traveling and didn’t get much sleep the night before. I had actually made dinner, and now it was ruined. I was processing the fact that obviously it was time to mess with Alex’s medicine again (which as a general rule I would rather check myself into a terrorist holding cell than deal with altering my autistic child’s brain chemistry) and so I left Russ to deal with Alex while I climbed the stairs, (heavy hearted, on the brink of tears) to check on Spencer.
I found him in his bedroom, pacing the floor like a caged tiger. “I’m just trying to cool down.” Spencer said when he saw me. “I get that.” I answered, sinking onto his futon. He came over to where I sat dejected, and slumped down next to me; leaning his red head against my shoulder, he sighed heavily. “You ok?” I whispered without looking at him. Spencer leaned forward, cocked his head to the side to peer at me, and I saw him take in my unshed tears, slumped shoulders, and the way I was breathing in and out through my nose, and he said,
“Well, my cholesterol is a little high…”
I laughed hard. Then promptly burst into tears.
My son the cheese.
I cried then, gave into the frustration of living with the ramifications of autism; but it wasn’t grief over the ruined dinner, but rather grief that my twelve year old held in his own despair, so he could comfort me in mine. The weight of the world should never be thrust on a child’s shoulders. I cried because Spencer is perfection. I cried because he is learning social skills, because he can read facial cues, because he said his cholesterol was a little high, and while he may have meant blood pressure… he was clever, and patient and kind.I wiped my tears away and took Spencer and Logan to McDonalds. But later that night I was thinking how Spencer is the embodiment of love. He shows me on a daily basis how love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
And to my beautiful boy I want to say, “Spencer, you don’t always have to be the cheese. You don’t have to be the melty glue that holds the sandwich together. Just remember, you can be the bun, you can be the soup, you can be the brownie, but whatever you choose to be, you will always be perfection.”
LOVE. LOVE. LOVE. This boy! Spencer Tidwell, July 2012