Happy Birthday to my Neurodiverse Dad


Do you see that suave James Bond villain up there? That’s my dad, circa 1975. The mild irritation playing across his face was the result of his passport photo being taken by a fussy professional photographer.

I should add Dad sported a funky lemon yellow turtleneck sweater with short sleeves. Mom certainly coordinated it well with snazzy tan pants and Beatle boots. Dad’s choice of super-villain gear is anyone’s guess.

Fast forward a few decades. Dad is more Captain Redbeard Rum than Doctor No. Right now, he’s probably wearing his comfy Mossimo togs, clapping his hands and singing “Dog! Dog! Dog!” to his Border Collie-Chow mix.

Dad and I don’t chat much on the telephone.  His sole purpose is to transport the telephone to mom when she is across the house (I call my mom daily). Nevertheless, when I talk to mom he adds zany background dialogue when we chat.

I think of how excitable my son and I are, and connect it to my dad’s mile a minute brain.  I sing my blue-dude symphonies; dad imitates howler monkeys a la Les Baxter. Liev is a math prodigy and hyperlexic wonder, just like his Shakespeare-quoting mathematician grandpa. The three of us are twitchy, sweet, absent-minded and enthusiastic about beautiful things.

I am grateful to know our minds follow similar maps.  Every nuance of behavior is a rewarding affirmation. Liev and I can look down the roads of our lives and see Grandpa, happy and content.

My Dad took the burden of having a different brain without a society or school system that understood. Liev and I will have life twice as easy. Once because of our progressive society.  And one more time because Dad’s cheer resonates in the background of our phone calls.

I love you, Dad.

Happy Birthday.