Tolkien, Grilled Salmon, and Specialty Burgers

Since my husband is known as an international J.R.R. Tolkien expert (having written two books on the subject), we were often invited to conferences centered around Tolkien and his great body of work. Quite often, these conferences are magnets for the marginalized extremists who are somewhat socially inept, blending real life and fantasy and getting confused between the two (kind of like a church board meeting). People dress like Hobbits, Gollum, elves, orcs, wizards, royalty, and dwarves (there’s even a set of identical triplets that show up at every event); they write and speak in Elvish; they proudly display their knowledge of the The Silmarillion and the Unfinished Tales. They are people who deeply desire attention and recognition. They are, in general, conversationally impaired—unless, of course, you’re talking about Hobbits.
Not being a Tolkien fan on my own (I just provide moral support and man the booth when Greg’s speaking), I find myself entirely out of my element at the events. Dressed like a human being, I get lots of strange looks. So does Greg, who usually dresses business-casual. At the very least, it’s an entertaining venue for people-watching, if you can tolerate the people—and if they can tolerate you.
Surprisingly, one relatively “normal” woman stopped by our booth one afternoon, talking with Greg at length about his books and her fascination with The Lord of the Rings. She politely invited us to dinner, and we tentatively assented, figuring she would flake out.
But she didn’t. We were invited to a grilled salmon dinner with her husband and two sons. We graciously accepted the invitation and prepared for an entertaining evening with avid and rabid Tolkien (and Star Trek) fans.
After we arrived and were comfortably seated in the large and tastefully decorated living room, we began conversing about the conferences and the efforts people made to organize and dress up for the usually-annual events. As we waited for her husband to get home from work, interesting noises began floating up from downstairs. Our hostess quickly piped up and explained that there was nothing to worry about—the noises were from her older (9-year-old) son, who has Asperger’s (a high-functioning form of autism). Having an intense interest in medicine since childhood, the conversation immediately grabbed my attention. I asked, for my own clarification, “Is it AsperGer’s or AsperJer’s,” to which she responded that it was pronounced with a hard “g” sound, and we went merrily along our conversational way.
What I didn’t know is that my husband, next to me on the couch but out of my line of sight (as I was turned toward our hostess), had never heard of the syndrome, and innocently heard that the youngster had “ass burgers.” As the boy’s mother and I continued our discourse, Greg struggled mightily to maintain his composure, still uncertain what, exactly, was different about the boy. Thoughts ran through his head: Man, if I had ass burgers I’d probably make noises, too! And, What are ass burgers anyway? Yumps? Dingleberries? Whatever they are, they sound uncomfortable!
At dinner, we were privy to the manifestations of Asperger’s Syndrome, as the older son demonstrated some extremely inappropriate behavior (though nothing offensive or dangerous). We enjoyed the meal and conversation with the couple; nothing more was said about Asperger’s directly; only subtle verbal checks to keep the boy under some semblance of social control.
A long four hours later, we got in the Jeep to head home. As soon as we were out of the driveway, Greg revealed to me his agonizing plight. He had at least caught on that Asperger’s was a behavioral disorder of some sort, but hadn’t deciphered the code. The truth was, if I had even glanced his way during that initial conversation, he would’ve lost it completely, embarrassing himself, our hostess, and me in the process. Needless to say, much laughter followed, as Greg was finally able to release his pent-up mirth over the absurdity of “ass burgers.”
And I had to agree: if I had ass burgers, I might be making funny noises, too.

About Jenn

While pursuing my literary and professional goals, I managed a severe form of gastroparesis (paralysis of the stomach) for six years, now complicated by full GI failure and a nonspecific autonomic failure of unknown etiology. In August of 2010, I finally had my stomach removed (total gastrectomy) to stop the 24/7 nausea and to lessen the risk of spreading infection to my central IV line (port-a-cath), as both of my gastric tubes (one G-tube in my stomach; one J-tube in my small intestine) were chronically–and extremely painfully–infected for longer than a year. I couldn’t possibly have survived the six-plus years of TPN (IV nutrition), surgeries, new (and unrelated) diagnoses, and being forced to go on disability without my amazingly supportive, encouraging, adoring, patient Care Partner and husband, Greg (married 1999)… Who reminds me of the unconditional, perfect love of God as shown through His Son, Jesus. My writing credits include The Da Vinci Code Adventure and Two Roads Through Narnia as well as several movie review compilations.

Not all of the entries are health-related. My conditions have finally settled into a quasi-normal routine. There will be ebbs and flows, but I am still active, and plan to live as long as I’m alive.

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0 Responses to Tolkien, Grilled Salmon, and Specialty Burgers

  1. Mike Baca says:

    Hahaha!!!! Ass burgers are funny. Actually my brother-in-law “suffers” from that (or rather I suffer from him having that). During a superbowl viewing with he and his wife, my family and wife’s parents, I finally had enough from this ding-dong and let him know that the only reason I wasn’t going to bend his nose permanently sideways was due to my love of Jesus hahahahaha!!! I seriously wanted to hurt him. Only several months later was I informed that he had Asperger’s. So I can totally relate to your anecdote!!!

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