Tourette’s jokes. They are everywhere now.
In all reality, they have always been there. They just didn’t catch my attention. Six years ago though, I learned more about Tourette’s than I ever wanted to, when my 13-year-old son developed his first noticeable vocal tic and we were thrust into a whole new world. He always had Tourette’s. We didn’t know. We had completely missed all the signs until that moment. I know this because a couple of years ago while showing some old videos of him to a friend, there was his eye tic – a distinctive eye blink and roll that now I can pick out anywhere, but then I just chalked up to allergies.
It was a rough time. I’m not going to lie. His vocal tic was a high-pitched squeal that was akin to a Pterodactyl screeching its way through the prehistoric forests. He had a neck jerk with it that pulled the muscles in his shoulders and there were times he would do it so hard, he would have to gasp for air. His throat hurt all of the time and he would get side-cramps from the exertion. The physical effects were just the tip of the iceberg; the mental effects were so much worse.
To say the whole situation was not funny is an understatement. Yet, somehow, we managed to find the humor in random moments. There was a time when his eye tic was such that he would have to stop walking wherever he was because he couldn’t see – normally in a doorway. We figured out, early on, that for some reason sharp corners set his eye tic off. We assume the corners of the doorway in his peripheral vision were the cause. Regardless, it caused many “brake for Trent” moments in our home.
One day, this happened to him in band and he blocked his teacher in his office, right in front of the entire class. You know what happened? He laughed. They all laughed. It is one of his favorite tic moments to tell. There are some who would be offended by this. I know. But the reality is, the moment itself was funny. Those kids who laughed weren’t laughing at him. They, as a matter of fact, were the ones who had his back during legitimate negative experiences – always, every single time.
There was the time he developed a wrist roll, where he would bend both wrists down and then roll them over and bend both wrists backward. We had to take him to a chiropractor for that one. It was also the tic that caused him to walk through the house one day and yell, “Hey mom! Look! T-rex. Spiderman. T-rex. Spiderman.” We all laughed.
His first semester in college, he attended the Dave Coulier stand-up show with my husband as part of Dad’s Weekend. When I talked to him later and asked about the show, he laughed and said it was funny. “Of course, not long into it there was a Tourette’s joke,” he said with a chuckle. I asked how he felt about that. His response, “I laughed. It was funny.”
With everything my son has gone through the last six years, my greatest joy is that he still has his sense of humor about everyday life. And his Tourette’s is part of his everyday life. It is no different than jokes about motherhood, jokes about growing older, jokes about women and men, jokes about every single other thing in the world.
I don’t get offended when I hear a Tourette’s joke just because it is a Tourette’s joke because, many times, it is funny and dead-on. Life is too short. I would prefer to laugh.
(Though, if you laugh AT my son, even though he is a man now, I’m still likely to throat punch you. Just sayin’. I’m still his mom.)
Michelle Leigh Miller is an independently published author, freelance writer, and blogger in Southeastern Ohio. Basically, she is just writing words.