An archtypical story

Lisa’s story

I believe my father has AS while my mother has aspects of AS as does my older sister.

We “discovered” AS in the family as a result of all the behavioral problems my nephew was having in primary school, and after a great deal of confusion and testing found that he was diagnosed with AS. In observing my nephew’s traits, my younger sister and I realized that there was a lot of AS in the family.

My father is a retired professor of [science subject] and my mother is a retired professor of [social science subject]. My father, apropos of nothing, will launch into long discourses at the dinner table about the history of his science, detailing scientists’ names and dates, which the rest of the family must “sit through” in its entirety or he will either fly into a rage or sulk.

My mother acts as if this is perfectly normal. However, she also will recite in excruciating detail, terrible stories about tragedies that happened to people she has known in her life or go into “professor mode” about some topic. If we then change the subject, my father will just “zone out” or go into a funk until we talk about something that interests him.

I should mention that my parents are both immigrants who are currently 80–for 40 years, I thought their behavior was due to their immigrant heritage, but reading your website (at which I found myself “laughing out loud” in recognition) has convinced me that it really has been AS all these years.

My parents are completely isolated, they have no friends and rarely ever talk about their families in their homeland. For instance, about 8 years ago my mother mentioned that her mother had turned 99. I did not even know that the woman was still alive! However, three months later, I was informed that my grandmother died!!.

My parents have always had very rigid routines for eating, sleeping, going to the store, etc.

They have a tendency in public to rub people the wrong way. They pick fights with waiters about where to sit in a restaurant, they argue with salespeople over tiny discrepancies, and they can be physically pushy.

At the same time, reality and truth are relative concepts–my parents openly lie about the most trivial things and for years I thought I must have a “bad memory” because I couldn’t seem to keep straight what the current “reality” was. It was not until I was dating my husband and he was astonished by one of their minor lies that I realized that they had routinely lied all my life!

In arguments, they must always be right–if I began by talking about some misunderstanding or slight by them, they would immediately turn the argument against me saying that I was being “disrespectful” and should apologise for even bringing anything up. Then they would launch into all the “bad behavior” I had ever done over the last ten years (much of it “made up” or “twisted”) to prove that they deserved an apology instead of me. But they never apologise for anything if they can help it.

My parents never hugged us and barely ever touched us as we were growing up and they rarely played with us–my father’s idea of playing with me was to give me addition and subtraction problems to do (at age 5!)!

How has this affected my family? I came across your site after having had another huge fight with my parents (who said some really prejudiced things about people from my husbands ethnic background in front of my husband) during a dinner.

Almost all the holidays, birthdays, and other celebratory events in my family have been marred in one way or another by my parents’ bad behavior. They picked fights with all of us right before our graduations (they did not even go to some of my younger sister’s); birthdays were either treated matter-of-factly or devolved into fights; Holidays were opportunities to either “lecture” or rage or sulk. They refused to come to my bridal shower and the rehearsal dinner for my wedding (embarassing me in front of my soon-to-be in-laws) and threatened not to come to the wedding the week before it took place (to which I just said “fine”–they relented and came when they realized I meant it).

As a result, about 15 years ago, I stopped talking to them for about three years. After a lot of therapy, I have been able to cobble together a “relationship” of sorts with them–though I am not talking to them at the current time. … My older sister tries to spend as little time as possible with my parents when she comes and there have been numerous times when she has visited and left precipitously in a rage.

My sisters are not currently speaking to each other. So AS has had a very detrimental effect on my family.

What do I hope to get our of ASpar? The knowledge that there are other families like mine that have suffered (that I am not alone)–and the hope that other people can suggest ways of dealing with an ASpar parent. I do think that AS has a strong genetic component.

Violent mathematician

My father has never had any friends that I know of. He has a PhD in math from a prestigious university. He tried a career in academia but left after he got into a fight with the chairman of the department over some small point about grading. Of course, the way my father describes it, the fate of the universe depended on his sticking to his point of view no matter what. But it always seemed to me kind of silly. Anyway, he then had a succession of different jobs, each one ending in a lawsuit when he got into fights with his bosses. My parents have always been self-righteous about these cases, but to the extent that I was able to understand what was going on, my father always seemed to be ethically in the wrong. For example, he left one job after being given a large sum of money and signing a “non-compete” agreement. He then immediately went to work for a competing company and sued his original employer, claiming he was forced to sign an unfair agreement!

He is clearly OCD and perseverent. As I child I used to watch in puzzlement as my father would come in and out of the kitchen four or five times an evening and run his hands over each of the stove dials, checking to make sure they were turned off. Ditto with the lock on the back door. He was incredibly rigid about certain things- for example, we had to line up our shoes exactly in an order specified by him in the cupboard

Some memorable topics of perseverence include: “Why Actors Are Not Artists,” “The Early Days of Computer Operating Systems,” and “The Fundamental Theorem Of Algebra.” Even though he could talk in great length about such things, in actual fact he made little sense. The meanings escaped him, even in technical subjects. He was just stringing together concepts by association, not by meaning. For many years I was so hungry for his attention that I would listen to him and try to bring something meaningful into the conversation. But his reaction to anything different from what he was saying was just to repeat himself in a louder tone of voice. He could get quite angry and even fly into a fit of rage over such things. If I didn’t want to listen to him he would become like a sulking child. Yet he never changed his behavior in the least.

He would lecture us constantly on such topics as Responsibility or The Way Things Are or How To Behave. It only took the slightest “infraction” to get him going. Again, he made no sense. He would rant and rave, literally foaming at the mouth. In this condition, a wrong word or look could result in him suddenly hitting a child. He had no clue how to relate to children (or to adults for that matter). Any show of normal human emotion or desire would often send him into a rage. He became desperate to stamp out the offender and the offense. He used to demand we give him reasons for what we wanted or were doing, but any appeal to our feelings would be answered with, “Feelings aren’t reasons. You could say you feel anything. How do I know if its real or not? You have to give me logical reasons for what you want.” Failure to comply would result in him getting louder and more aggressive and saying the same things over again. Of course we tried to comply and it has taken me 45 years to get to the point of unraveling that mental knot.

My father was also extremely paranoid, always thinking that people were out to screw him in one way or another. He did not know how to manage conflict, even minor ones, like a misunderstanding over a hotel reservation or a mistake in a restaurant bill (which he always obsessively checked). He would either become incredibly aggressive and threatening, or else if he could not intimidate the other person, he would withdraw and later obsess and perseverate endlessly over how wrongly he had been treated.

As a child, his touch was a source of major freak-out to me. It his hard to describe but it gave me the creeps whenever he touched me. In my mother’s case, her touch was often very mechanical, like I was a piece of luggage, not a child. I didn’t like her touch but it didn’t make me feel yucky. But my father’s touch had the effect of making me cringe. There was some kind of weird energy in it. I really don’t know how to describe it. I would go out of my way to avoid being touched by him and when I couldn’t avoid it, the feeling I had was as though I had just walked into a damp, cold morgue with dead bodies lying around. Honestly!