It was 43 years ago. I was hitchhiking around the country. (What else was I supposed to do? After graduating from Princeton, I applied for and was turned down by Ringling Bros Circus Clown College).
So I pitched my tent deep in the woods and wrote in my journal. Every few weeks I would hike back to civilization to visit friends, do laundry and, when absolutely necessary, find a temp job.
That’s why, in February, 1975, I agreed to a job interview at one of the first schools in the country for children with autism. I walked in the door, with no idea what to expect.
A young boy, he couldn’t have been more than six, grabbed my hair with one hand and my beard with the other, and, in 1975, you have to picture me with a lot more hair. So anyway, the youngster grabs and doesn’t let go, until a young woman comes running down the hall and gently, but firmly disentangles me.
I got the job – 2 hours a day, four days a week, lasting, at most, three months. It was nearly perfect.
At the end of three months they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, work full-time all summer for $55/week and in September I’d get a raise to $70/week. How could I say no to that?
Years went by. I continued working with children and adults with autism. And I continued writing. It took me thirteen years to write my first manuscript. Twenty-seven years, if you count the re-writes. It was a modern Buddhist parable on the nature of enlightenment and it was unpublishable.
In 1992, I founded the Life Skills Resource Center, providing services in New Jersey to adults with autism. Programs operate twenty-four hours/day, 365 days/year. Somehow, I managed to write four mysteries, mostly at 5:30 in the morning. My last book, a black comedy, Death and White Diamonds, was published in 2014.
And what about that modern Buddhist parable? A few years ago, I took it out of the file cabinet, cut approximately 65,000 words and discovered a pretty decent short story. The Sound Bite was published in 2006 in Woman’s Corner Magazine.
I have spent the last 43 years creating community-based programs, services and supports in New Jersey for children and adults with autism. Forty-three years, and not one day more. Today I join the ranks of the retired. I celebrated by going to the local Social Security Office and applying for Medicare Part B.
And that young woman, the one who disentangled me at the job interview in February, 1975? This would be a really good story if I could tie her back into the story, before the end. Well, if she doesn’t get tired of having me around the house, this spring we will celebrate our thirty-eighth anniversary.
Such is life.