Chapter One: I Have a Bomb

I have compiled the three parts of Chapter One: I Have a Bomb into this one blog post to make it easier for y’all to read and share! Chapter Two: I Lost the Drugs is in the works : )

*WARNING: Below this line there may be curse words and profanity that some find offensive. I use them only to accurately demonstrate the experiences and stories of my family’s journey with my brother’s Tourrette’s. This is the first installment of the book I am writing about that journey. Just remember it’s okay to laugh. In fact, please do! Just make sure you’re learning about and gaining respect for an unfamiliar challenge and the group of people who must deal with it. Above all else, take from it a deeper understanding of acceptance, and enjoy!



Fuck. Shit. Fuckshit. FATASS TITTIES!

If you are offended, I suggest you put this down because you won’t like it.

However many times you have experienced curse words in your life, I still win, I promise. I’ve been kicked out of restaurants, churches, and movie theaters for it. So trust me when I say your ears, or eyes rather, will be ok.

While it is impossible to tell you this story accurately without the profuse usage of profanity, the journey you will read about is that of a family struggling against the most severe form of Tourette’s, complete with boob punching. Yes, that’s right, my brother gets away with grabbing women’s breasts because he literally can’t help it. And I get in trouble for getting home past curfew…

It is an ongoing story, so I apologize in advance for not being able to deliver all the answers on what is still one of the world’s most misunderstood disorders. But my wish is that this journey gives hope to individuals struggling directly with Tourette’s, enlightens others on what this disorder truly is, and if nothing else, provides for a few good laughs.

This is a story about spit, tolerance, hilarity, learning, family, and most importantly, Xanax. Enjoy.

Chapter One – I’ve Got a Bomb

If you are one of those people who skips reading the Preface, stop that. Go read the Preface.

Tucker being Tucker…

We all know that person who loves to tell the simply ‘outrageous’ story about the time they had to go through the security scanner twice at the airport because they forgot to take the sunblock out of their carry on. “And they gave me a pat down! And the whole line got backed up!”

That sounds kind of nice, actually.

The first time we tried to take Tucker to the airport was a horrifying experience. I’d liken it to throwing an arctic whale into a hot tub with very mean, whale-eating dinosaurs and then setting the surface of the water on fire, from the whale’s point of view. In other words, not good.

We always knew that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (or ADHD) runs in the family. The name is almost as obnoxious as the people who have it.

My grandmother swallowed her sister’s tooth because it sounded like a good idea, and my dad taunted rabid dogs with steak (he has the scars to prove it). At age five, I would surprise-attack the adults in church with my head-butting skills and push their children over, and Tucker eats tadpoles and ‘then’ realizes that they don’t taste good. We’ve got impulsivity on lock. So there’s Tucker, Dad, Grandma, and me being very not quiet and not calm and not rational and not shy and SO not go with the flow. And then there is Weatherly (my sister) and my mom, who are about as chill as it gets. If you can imagine, they don’t exactly get the spotlight that often.

At first we thought his was just off the charts, and it is, but the doctors told us there was much more going on with him than just massive hyperactivity.

Although he had always struggled with extreme ADHD and mood swings, this was something new. My brother started to notice that his head would twitch and turn without his consent. Trying to understand just what was going on, he laid down on the floor and remained motionless. And then his head lifted, by itself.

My brother (Tucker) on the left, me on the right, and my sister (Weatherly) in the middle. Guess which one doesn’t have ADHD? Hint: It’s not him or me. Notice who is just waving sweetly and non-abrasively. So pleasant.

Let me interject here with a little side note on what “by itself” means. When I refer to him moving or speaking against his will, I don’t mean people with Tourette’s just happen to look down at their left arm and go, “Aw fuck, that’s my arm wiggling all over the place again. Oh look! Now I’m slapping myself in the face, what a surprise!”

To an extent, you are aware that the “tic” is coming. It’s strangely similar to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which oftentimes accompanies a person’s Tourette’s in the sense that you feel compelled to do a certain action. You think on overdrive.

“Look at the dent in that car door, I have to touch it, but right in the center, or else it doesn’t count. Okay I did it.”

These are the types of tics that are easily anticipated by the individual with Tourette’s. Sometimes a single action quenches what feels like a thirst in your brain, and the tic-ing may end for the time being. In more severe cases, like Tucker’s, it goes more something like this…

“Look at the dent in that car door, I have to touch it, but right in the center, or else it doesn’t count. Okay I did it. I have to do it again now, just to make sure that it was in the center and not a little to the left like I may have actually done. Okay I did it again. That one also seemed more like on the left hand side. Well now I should probably touch it on the right side of the center twice to make it even and balanced. The second time I touched the right side was accidentally more forceful, so it’s still technically off balance. One forceful tap on the left side and one light touch on the right side will set it even with two light taps and one hard tap on each side.”

Keep in mind that we are still talking about an inch-wide dent here people.

This is why people with this disorder are so easily mistaken by others to be at fault for their tics. The common assumption is, “well can’t you just not do it?”

Short term, yep, sometimes. Although I can assure you that no guy chooses to hit themselves in the crotch, and my brother definitely punches himself in the crotch. Long term? Nope.

Me not thinking before licking a “tennis ball snow cone” and showing off for the camera as well. Oh, the beauty of middle school…

As Tucker often says to us, “I have to get the tic out!” and then proceeds to punch us in the boob. You can begin to understand that the nature of this disorder is not one of surprise to the individual. They know the tic is coming, understand its presence, an sometimes try and fend it off.

But it keeps gnawing at them, this urge akin to that of an addictive substance, and eventually, if not instantly, the thought process becomes, “well if I give in just this one last time, the urge will be satisfied and I will be able to keep any more at bay from now on.” Unfortunately, another urge will come, and it rarely ends up working that way. Otherwise, this disorder would be an entirely different scenario.

Of course, this entire sensation usually happens within a span of milliseconds, so while there is this thought process involved, it is still an extremely physical and involuntary experience.

But I digress, we are currently about to walk into the airport with Tucker, who at this point in time has been diagnosed with Tourette’s, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and an anxiety disorder. In other words, yay.

When my family is planning for air travel, you can tell.

Mom gets this face like, “I had children and I’m not sure why…” Don’t misunderstand me. My mother is one of the kindest, sweetest, most understanding and patient people you will ever meet.

My father too, for that matter, has been an absolutely amazing man and role model. It’s funny how we all regard him as considerably impatient and yet he has withstood more turmoil, challenges, and seemingly insurmountable obstacles with my brother than most fathers could ever imagine, all the while being there for my mom, sister, and me.

Momma being momma. You could never tell that she has had (and kept alive for some reason) three ridiculously high maintenance children. Isn’t she beautiful?

In addition to his Tourette’s and other disorders, another alarmingly abrasive characteristic of Tucker is his irrational temper. So when my parents work their entire social lives around making sure he doesn’t feel left out, bend over backwards to not only accept but embrace the challenges of his disorders, and fight tooth-and-nail in his defense when his peers tease him and adults criticize him; the most unsettling thing of all is not the constant stream of profanity or unexplained and grotesque body movements, but his choice to oftentimes lash out at the only people who love and care for him unconditionally.

We seem so small!

Of his own volition many times, he has called them, Weatherly, and myself absolutely terrible names. He has threatened to stab me with a knife before, and he wasn’t kidding. When he does literally anything, he leaves destruction and mess in his wake. Because he doesn’t sleep very well, he wakes up early. By the time we get to the kitchen, every cabinet is open, there is cheese mixed with some liquid on the floor, some eggs are cracked and caked directly onto the stove, and the refrigerator is warm because the door has been left open for at least a few hours. None of these are tics.

Many people chastise my parents for their lack of discipline. They say, “Why can’t you control your kid?” or “Why don’t you punish him for doing those terrible things?” and it takes literally every ounce of their strength to keep from either telling them where to shove theirs or crying. When, on average, every action he takes contains some aspect that is considered punishable by “normal” parents, mine have realized that the whole “picking your battles” thing is infinitely valuable and necessary.

But back to the airport. Mom and dad were silently throwing last minute items into their suitcases. Dad was almost done, but mom was farther behind because she first had to pack Tucker’s carry on.

Candid cuteness!

Not to be taken lightly, the contents of Tucker’s carry on can determine whether we get to our destination alive or not. One of the most effective combatants of Tourette’s is simply distraction. The more your mind is occupied with one thing, the less mental horsepower you have to focusing and dwelling on the urges. This is one reason we cringe when people stare, ask questions, or want to talk to him about it. It reverses the effect of distraction, and instead puts the spotlight on something that he tries constantly everyday to resist and forget about. This is where the headphones, iPad, video games, and endless snacks of the carry on become essential. Our sanity depends on it.

Tucker also has coprolalia, or the involuntary use of obscene words or socially inappropriate words and phrases. This is the first thing people think of when they think of Tourette’s, and it can be a part of the disorder, however it is actually one of the rarest forms of the disorder. Tourette’s normally consists of occasional involuntary physical motions accompanied at times by noises or sounds. Of course, Tucker had to one-up statistics, and so as I am pacing back and forth in the kitchen waiting for the rest of my ridiculously slow family to load up the luggage and go, I hear what we dread most on airport day.

In the room next to me, I can hear Tucker, and it’s bad. He’s watching Bob’s Burgers, or Family Guy, or maybe the Cleveland Show, and above the show dialogue I hear Tucker’s involuntary additions. “Fuck, FUH, fuckfuck. Shit-ducky!”

Don’t ask me where he comes up with this stuff. Every once in a while, he’ll say something super weird (yeah, weirder than shit-ducky) and he will have this look on his face like, I really just don’t even know…

This is bad, because it means that he is nervous for the flight, and when he gets nervous it really works up his tics, and that is just super fun in the line for security.

Oftentimes with the onset of puberty, a child’s Tourette’s can morph into something far more extreme than what it began as. This has been evident in the change of ease over time with which we have been able to fly with Tucker. Before puberty, his tics were limited to only physical movements, and so air travel and going out into public in general was fairly challenge-free. This specific airport experience, which happened just a couple of months ago with Tucker at age fourteen, is the one mainly described in this chapter. I will throw in some specifically poignant airport experiences from the past into the mix as well to give you a fuller understanding of the progression of difficulty experienced. Also, some of them are just too unbelievable not to share.

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Mom pleasantly preparing for go-time

We park and walk through the automatic doors.

“Cunt!” And he didn’t just say it, he screamed it. At the top of his lungs.

The 80 or so people hurrying to security or the ticketing counter just stopped and stared, again with that whole, “why aren’t you punishing your son?” look. To make matters seem worse to these strangers, we don’t even seem to be alarmed. For extremely obvious reasons, the members of my family are not easily embarrassed.

We have learned from past experiences that we need to call a few days in advance in order to arrange an escort for us through security, and since that escort did not seem to be readily at hand we took Tucker back outside to hide and wait. If you can remember the character Bubbles from Lilo and Stitch, the man assigned as our escort was him in real life.

He was extremely nice, sharply-dressed, very dark-skinned, and well past my height, which is quite tall considering that I am already 5′ 11″. He was donning a jet-black suit on his broad shoulders and wore impenetrable shades over his eyes. He must have gotten word that there was some kid screaming profanity in the concourse and assumed that this profane child may be his joyfully accepted responsibility for the next several hours.

He shook our hands and said, “How do you do? I’ve got a flight to get you on today.”

Tucker looks at him and shakes his hand, keep in mind that he has been tic-ing every word in the book for the entire 45-minute ride to the airport from our hotel to the Newark airport to fly home to Austin.

“Hello, nice to -nigger!- meet -nigger!- you too.”

Meet bubbles

Here is where I feel the need to say that tics are not based on morals or values. Our family embraces diversity and by no means encourages or supports racism or closed mindedness. We understand that that word is extremely offensive, and no, my parents did not teach it to us.

“Well then why does he know the word and say it?” ask snide individuals, the same ones aiming to criticize my parents for their lack of virtue and parenting skills.

One, he knows the word for the same reason that you know the word. It is unfortunately and incorrectly thrown around from time to time in society, it appears in literature required for school readings, it comes up in stories of the past, and it appears in movies and television shows. Everyone in society has been exposed to its meaning and implications at some point in their life, not excluding my brother. Two, he actually says it because that’s how coprolalia in Tourette’s works.

If an overweight woman walks by, the worst possible thing that you could say is fat ass c***.

If a Hispanic person is nearby, the worst possible thing to say is f***ing Mexicans.

If a homosexual person is in sight, the worst possible thing to say is faggot.

And if, Heaven forbid, you see a black person in the Newark airport, you should avoid saying the n-word.

Remember when I said that distraction is key to avoiding tics? Well, once you are aware of the fact that Tourette’s can cause you to curse, you also involuntarily begin understanding at what times it would be most inopportune to be forced to say those words. You become hyper aware of potential triggers for profanity, and in the process focus even more on trying not to say them. Of course, this is the opposite of distraction, of calm, of anything positive, and so if brings the mental focus of the individual entirely on avoiding the word, which of course makes them say it.

So it’s now the three of us standing there silently, and as usual I am trying to assess how bad this situation has just become. I am just going to call him Bubbles, because they seriously are the same person. I am assuming that Bubbles has been briefed on all that the situation entails, including the racially-charged profanity, but how people say they will react when faced with this and how they actually react, I have learned, are two separate things entirely.

Much to my relief, he chuckles a little and only continues to talk about our game plan for when we get inside, mixed with a few questions about the trip we just finished up. And you know what? Because no one paid any attention and his focus was being redirected, the frequency of Tucker’s tics actually began to decline. Perfect. Absolutely perfect.

Of course, calm before the storm, right? Bubbles kindly helps me with the luggage and we re-enter the airport. I’m going to save some ink here and let you get creative with what Tucker said.

Bubbles, who turns out to be head of security of the airport, leads us past the winding lines for ticketing and up to the front. As we stand there, he explains to the employee the situation and that we will be rushed through the security procedures. While he and my parents are in discussion at the front of several individuals who are now giving us the “line-cutter” stare, Tucker starts to feel very conspicuous. You know what makes you even more noticeable in an airport? When you start screaming, “I HAVE A BOMB!”

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Tucker with our 4-person TSA escort team in our own personal security line.

This is just another example of the “worst-possible tic” catered for the specific situation in which the individual finds themselves. That one gets some people’s attention.

Bubbles momentarily turns around, and assures the audience that the kid does not have a bomb and that he is with him, but Tucker has momentum now.

“I have a bomb! Bomb-in-my-pants! Gun in my pants!!”

Trying to play off of the benefits of distraction, I start racking my brain for things to say and ask him about, because the more they stare, the more he will tic, and the more they will stare. I ask him about what he wants for Christmas, how many “girlfriends” he has, what his favorite Taekwondo move is, anything to get his mind off of his surroundings. He knows what I’m doing, and he tries to go along with it because he knows he will be better off if he can make himself forget. But we all know how trying to forget works out, and so I come up with a new strategy. I smack him in the face with a water bottle.

You know what’s weird about that? It actually works. If my mom, sister, or dad tried that he would be livid. With me it works, and I think it is because we are so similar. We both have had to deal with some pretty overwhelming ADHD at times, and while I don’t have Tourette’s officially, I do exhibit certain symptomatic similarities. When I was little I would make these very high squealing noises to satisfy some strange physical urge that I felt to do just that. I sometimes blink my eyes very hard together to overcome a similar feeling, and I have always relentlessly picked at my nails. So while I have overcome my obstacles, I am able to understand what he is feeling on a deeper level than the rest of my family.

Every time I smack him with the bottle, he says stop it through giggles, and while people are still looking at us like we are on something, we are both temporarily comfortable and Tucker isn’t tic-ing. I then realize that my valid, unexpired license just got checked with my baggage, and my expired one is in my wallet. Back to reality (I seriously feel like reality is not really the appropriate term for this situation). Nonetheless, she checks my ID as I grit my teeth, and either out of pity or lack of attention gives it back and sends us through security.

As ridiculous as it sounds, this was one of the most issue-free ticket counter experiences with Tucker that we have ever had.

Basically the security line we passed. Except it was far more racially-diverse and I wasn’t allowed to hit him with the water bottle anymore because I could use it to smuggle potentially explosive materials past security-the irony.

We once had a woman who refused to print our tickets for fifteen minutes, even though our specific information and medical papers were on file, because she was worried about the comfort-level of the other passengers. We understand that we can’t force his disorder on people, that’s why we don’t go to church anymore or eat at restaurants or see movies. Unless we can find someone willing to watch him, we are stuck, and even that takes a toll on my parents who are torn between pursuing a social life and ensuring that he does not feel isolated. We do however expect fair treatment and respect, and ultimately were forced to call the director to receive our tickets.

We follow Bubbles past the hundreds of people in line for security and continue toward the terminal. It is always funny to see people’s reaction to our escorted line-cutting. At first their faces look quizzical, as if they are trying to figure out our claim to prestige and special attention. They quickly go from trying to discern if we are celebrities to an “oh, that kid just has problems” face. My confusion is replaced with amusement when I see them unlocking and powering up an entirely separate security scanning unit just for us. Black people keep walking by on the other side of the hallway, and so my family, Bubbles, and three additional TSA (not to be confused with TSA, or the National Tourette Syndrome Association – I also find this to be a bit hilarious and oddly ironic) escorts are all doing everything that they can to keep his attention in the other direction.

They check my ID a second time, still good. And then they set us free into the terminal packed with people of all ethnicities, sizes, shapes, and sexual preferences, alone without escorts until the plane departs 50 minutes from now. Tucker starts to scream that he has a bomb.

The terminal was built in just about the worst configuration possible. Our flight gate was at the very end of the hall, along with several other gates in a small, compacted roundabout sort of shape. In other words, it was like being on stage in front of an auditorium. Yay, yay, yay, yay…

As I have explained before, our family is the opposite of discriminatory or racist, but in public scenarios I often finding myself, as I’m sure my mother, father, and sister are all doing as well, hoping that we do not walk be any non-Caucasian individual. The n-word, f***ing  Mexican, or yellow tic will invariably come out of Tucker’s mouth through no fault of his own, and suddenly we are faced with an extremely uneasy situation.

Where I would normally be thrilled to be in the company of such diverse and richly unique people from all ethnicities, sexual identities, body weights, and walks of life, my only thought in that moment was, retreat.

“Nig-, nigg, nigger! Nigger, bomb in my pants!”

Dear goodness I was going to die. I was going to be murdered and die in the airport.

We had our audience’s attention. After living with this for a while, you really develop an eye for reading just how pissed off people are in these situations. It wasn’t looking good. There were some eyebrows raised, but most of them pierced us with a dark stare that conveys so much meaning. It says, “how immoral of you, you racist scum”, and “your parents must be lowlifes for teaching you this and allowing you go on unpunished.” Because of the “bomb” component, several individuals also displayed a twinge of concern for their own safety, and many were simply struggling to overcome the sudden and shocking language that they had just heard.

Tucker kept it coming, and the eyeballs did not help. The more tension and judgment you can detect, the worse the tics become. This was not the place to be.

We retreated. I dragged Tucker back through the terminal, past every single gate, and we set up camp on the floor just beyond security where there was minimum potential for exposure to humans. We were hiding.

Many of the passengers and airport personnel were Black, and so each time they would pass our camp on their way to the terminal, all focus was placed on redirecting Tucker’s attention and vision in the opposite direction. I will let you imagine how that one worked out. Every time our attempts failed, the stares, and occasionally the irate responses immediately followed. With each n-word outburst, we issued our disclaimer to the individual.

“He’s got Tourette’s, and he can’t help it!”

Yeah, whatever, is the usual reaction.

I still jokingly give my mom crap for this, but it was at this time that she felt overwhelmingly compelled to go and purchase some coffee with my dad, just the two of them. The coffee line was the longest line in the terminal, and we still had 50 minutes before boarding. Well played mom, well played. She looked over her shoulder and shot me a grin as she escaped. I laughed and stuck out my tongue.


I don’t  know how many of y’all are aware of the popular phrase “the struggle is real”, but it is usually used in some ridiculous context where no struggle is present. For instance, “omg, I can never figure out a way to keep my strawberry dream lip gloss from staining my pumpkin spice latte cups. The struggle is real.” You just think about that one.

At this point I look like a crazy person because I’m leaning against the wall laughing at what appears to be a boy screaming racial profanities at passersby. I still feel obligated to prevent as many offensive comments as possible, but the ridiculousness of the entire situation has temporarily rendered me incapable of sane thought.

I draw it together though, and devise a new plan of action. If he has food in his mouth, he will stop, or at least they won’t understand what he is saying. So I give him an absurdly large sandwich and hope for a momentary reprieve. It lasts the exact four and a half minutes that it takes him to inhale the sandwich.

“Ni-, nigga, nigger!”

You can hear him fighting the tic, cutting it off halfway through the word and then giving in. This entire post-security fiasco has lasted approximately twelve minutes, we have 48 minutes more to wait, and I’m pretty sure that mom has just ingeniously went to the back of the coffee line again…

As much as it sounds like a jerk move on her and dad’s part, I was actually glad that they had the opportunity to find some space for a bit. Even though I live with it, I still only get the tip of the iceberg. They are the ones constantly consulting doctors, helping him fall asleep every night, driving to Houston to meet some world-renown chiropractic neurologist,  making sure he feels included in family activities, scheduling and attending meetings with schoolteachers and administration, setting up special programs for him, dealing with his outbursts when I can just walk away, picking him up early from school when his tics are so bad that he can’t even stay in the nurse’s office, cleaning up the messes that he makes every day, going to bat for him when he is made fun of, and so much more. Somehow they are still some of the most resilient, caring, and funny people that I will ever know. Amidst all of this, they find time to both work full-time, loyally support and drive us to our sports, clubs, and hobbies, be there for anything we ever need, and still be into each other. So yeah, they can ditch us for coffee.

I want to explain what I mean when I say that they have to “go to bat” for Tucker when people make fun of him. Although he is going through the beauty of puberty and middle school and a whole heck of a lot of the taunting comes from immature peers his age, adults are not out of the water. Sometimes, they are worse than the kids.

My mom once took a trip with Tucker to D.C. alone. They were on their way to meet a doctor and were staying as far away from everyone else at their gate as possible. People can still hear though, and so when “I have a bomb!”, “Nigger!”, and “Fatass!” reared their ugly heads, it attracted the attention of one man in particular.

After having stared at Tucker for a considerable amount of time, which as we have learned does not have a desirable effect, he decided instead to make his contempt more explicitly known.

“Hey, you better knock that off, boy.” He seemed so proud of his refined sense of morality.

Tucker and my mother respond with the normal disclaimer, “I can’t sir, I’ve got Tourette’s and I can’t help what I say.” What happened next still makes my dad fantasize about what he would have done to the guy if he had been there too.

“You just think you’re so clever, don’t you?”

Exhausted from an already strenuous day of airport festivities (remember what security was like with an escort?), my mother got up and went over to show him the medical papers explaining the disorder and how it affects Tucker.

“I don’t care about your papers. You’ll be sorry one day that you were such a punk,” he said, looking right past mom at Tucker, who was now tic-ing twice as much.

It was at this point that my mother’s uncanny ability to guilt-trip people who deserve it without meaning to provided some reconciliation. The woman sitting next to him asked my mother what Tourette’s was and how she was feeling, clearly sensing that she needed a companion. While attempting to explain all that the past six years of discovering and dealing with Tourette’s entailed and what they were trying to do on this specific trip, my mother burst into tears. After briefly summarizing what she had been through, she pointed at the man and said, “It’s all worth it because my son is worth it, but when people are so cruel and closed-minded it just makes everything so much harder than it needs to be.”

The man’s head dropped in shame, and he murmured “sorry” almost inaudibly.

Mom: 1, Stupid Man: 0

Back to Newark. When pre-boarding finally begins, Bubbles shows back up and escorts us to the front of the line once more. Tucker is tic-ing literally anything you can think of that should never be said in public, and the 500 or so individuals surrounding us are less than pleased. Bubbles and my dad board the plane in order to brief the captain and crew members of the situation. Every passenger waited to board until after the staff had all been briefed and were informed that the twelve-year-old screaming “I have a bomb!” does not, in fact, have a bomb.

Once boarding begins, we decide to experiment with seating arrangements. I suggest that we try putting Tucker in the very back and that the rest of us leisurely sit in the bulkhead; my idea was declined. We instead opt to sit in the seats that are as close as possible to the engine in the hopes that certain pleasantries are at least somewhat drowned out. We quickly found out that Tucker was very talented at literally being louder than a jet engine.

Imagine yourself as an unsuspecting passenger flying home from a week-long business trip. You are exhausted, and ready to see your family and be home. You hear the f-word and you turn around, not entirely sure if someone actually said that. There is a girl and her mother laughing at what you presume to her the girl’s brother, and all of a sudden he screams the f-word again, absolutely screams it. And you know what? The girl and the woman just look at each other and burst into giggles all over again.

I am sure that we look insane, but in all honesty, if we don’t laugh, then we would cry. Where is the fun in that?

As the crew is performing the safety announcements, Tucker adds on his own little soundtrack.

“Although we do not expect a change- Fuck! Fuck you! – in cabin pressure, in the event – TITTY! – of cabin pressure change, oxygen – Bomb in my pants! – masks will drop from the overhead – you’re fat! Tittyfatass! – compartment…”

Lucky for us, Tucker was not sleepy at all, so we had the pleasure of his conscious company for the next three and a half hours back to Austin. At some point during Tourette’s camp the past week, Tucker had picked up some “fun” new tics from the other kids.

At camp, they do this thing called “tic shopping.” It is not a planned activity or purposeful action, but the tendency for the kids to involuntarily see each other’s tics and pick them up as their own. Sounds like a really relaxing place, doesn’t it?

Apparently there had been a girl there whose current tic was a “meow” sound. Guess what Tucker screamed the entire plane ride home?

“FUCKING MEOW MIX!! Fu-, fuck-, fucking MEOW!”

Another boy at camp had, for lack of a better word, a boob-grabbing tic. He literally just grabbed women’s breasts against his will (whatever “against his will” joke that just came to your mind, we know). He also involuntarily punched people in the head. Tucker picked up both of these.

Mom and I, who were blessed with the opportunity to sit next to him, were thrilled to have our boobs squeezed, get punched in the head, and profanity shrieked into our ears for almost four hours.

I had never seen what we now refer to as the “boob-squeezer” before we were seated on the airplane that afternoon. I look at Tucker, trying to hide the fact that I’m giggling at his “Fucking Meow Mix” tic, and he just straight up grabs my boob. Nothing should surprise me anymore, but somehow I was completely taken aback by this lovely addition to Tucker’s arsenal, and the look on my face must have been priceless. Mom starts laughing uncontrollably to the point where she cannot keep her eyes open and, you got it, he just goes right ahead and gives her a squeeze as well. She began to snort from laughing so hard.

So now imagine that you’re that guy two seats up watching the woman and girl with the boy. You’re probably wondering why he is grabbing their breasts, and probably also why they are ok with it. Maybe you’re starting to wonder if that isn’t his mother and sister, but that he may just be really good with the ladies and really handsy. I seriously don’t know what goes through people’s minds when they see us doing our thing. I can imagine it’s probably incredibly confusing. I would love to know their first impressions though, as they try desperately to make sense of the insanity before them.

Invisible passengers would have made this a lot easier…

At this point, Tucker is freaking out because he is grabbing his mother’s and sister’s boobs, and it’s kind of freaking him out. So in between the actual boob-grabbing, he is also frantically asking us to sit with our arms tightly crossed in front of our chests so that he can’t actually get to our boobs. We are laughing hysterically.

All of a sudden, he clocks my mom in the temple with a wickedly strong left hook, and the “merriment” ends. Now is a good time to mention that my brother is 5’9” and weighs 200 pounds. He’s also very strong. Mom begins to cry because it hurt, and dad is furious. Of course, as has been established by now, this was just another tic that Tucker couldn’t help, but my dad nonetheless is extremely upset with him. They begin to fight, with dad threatening him and Tucker responding that he is an asshole for not understanding that he can’t help it. Tucker is also asking mom incessantly if she is okay and repeatedly kissing the spot that he hit her.

His tics disappear for a split second in the midst of his distraction, but then return.

Understandably, the man in the aisle across from us is just staring incredulously at the five of us, to which Tucker lashes out, “Hey! I’ve got Tourette’s old man, so just keep your stares to yourself!”

Slowly, dad calms down, mom feels better, and we are beginning to find “fucking meow mix” funny again. Now that the head-punching tic has been established as the worst-possible thing he could do, that becomes the primary focus and therefor the primary tic. For the next three hours, he unwillingly goes after me and mom, but we are more prepared now. We see him start to move and will catch his fist before it gets to our head. To this he protests, saying that it doesn’t let him “get the tic out.” He pleads with us to just let him “tap” our heads, just a touch, and then it will all be good.

He says, “Put a pillow on your head so I can punch that,” but no matter what he does, “tap” or pillow, he can’t control how hard he actually hits, and so we say no.

He protests, saying that we don’t understand his Tourette’s because we are asking him to stop something that he inherently cannot because of the disorder, but we tell him that he is still not allowed to hit our heads. It doesn’t matter if it’s a tic.

You can see how this gets very circular and very quickly, and there is no clear-cut answer to a scenario like this. You either “don’t understand,” or you become a victim.

Some people are very in tune with, for lack of a better description, Tucker’s “vibe.” For some reason or other, a complete stranger will feel Tucker’s struggles, as well as ours, and pitch in any way they can. The woman behind us was one of those people.

She asks where we are going, what we are coming from, and what is going with us, and we briefly explain, including some of the trouble that we had encountered earlier. Tucker  looks at her and says, “Fuck you!”

She laughs, and then yells, “Well I don’t have Tourette’s, and fuck you too!”

My family laughs uncontrollably, happy to see her positive reaction where so many others that day had been so cruel, and the passengers around us who had been silently enduring our very audible dysfunction began to giggle to themselves. The tension felt before just slipped away.

Sensing that Tucker needed to get the ants out of his pants, she requested that he escort her to the restroom and guard the door for her while she was in there. He willingly obliged.

I turned to the man who Tucker had yelled at earlier and said, “it’s been one heck of a day,” in a somewhat exhausted voice.

To my surprise, he took my hands into his and just held them for a moment, smiling and nodding his head that it would all be okay.

And you know what? He was right.

Chapter Two coming soon!

You can follow me on Twitter @CambriaSawyer

Like, share, whatever floats your boat, but help us share this story so that people can learn and connect! Thank you! : )

11 comments on “Chapter One: I Have a Bomb

  1. Martha Mason says:

    I am so impressed with you maturity. Your brother is lucky to have you in his corner and from what you have shared your parents are fighting the good fight also. I am sure people look at your family when your brother has an outburst but you are correct, your choices are laugh or cry. I think it is great that you are writing and sharing his story, to educate people. You have serious talent as a writer. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Zach says:

    Brilliantly written! Interested just tired! Papa Noel’s

  3. Bailey says:

    I learned a lot from reading this. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Terriann says:

    Thank you for sharing this story. I have a daughter with mild Tourrette’s …ADHD and OCD. It is a family disease…. if one has it… we all kind-of have it. We learn to love ourselves and our family in all it’s craziness, though and that is the gift part of it all.

    • I couldn’t agree more! As difficult as our current situation is, I wouldn’t trade it for the world! It brings with it so many adventures and learning experiences. I’m so glad you see it as a gift also: )

  5. Mary says:

    I have Tourette’s too, and I enjoyed reading this. I haven’t had to deal with airport problems yet, but going to DC on a trip and going to all these monuments, and memorials and high-security buildings was pretty nerve-wracking when you have a tic that makes you moan “gun” and have coprolalia as well. I have such a hard time dealing with the stares in public(no rude people have approached me yet, but even little kids will glare at me),the laughter, the mean people at school, and even my own family’s ignorance at times. Your brother is lucky to have a sister like you.

    • I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with that, Mary. I’m so glad you enjoyed reading part of our story, and hope that you know that there are thousands of us (including me and my family) who are all on your side! You sound very strong, and my hope is that the more people read the stories we have to tell, the less people will stare or giggle- because they will have learned and understood!

  6. Spell It Aut says:

    I enjoyed this post! I found your blog by googling ‘tourette’s grab boob.” Someone on one of my tourette’s support groups mentioned that boob grabbing might be a tic. My son does it, and it never occurred to me that there could be a connection between his boob grabbing and his tourrette’s. So here I am! Love your writing and looking forward to reading other posts while I squeeze my arms tightly around my chest 😉

    • Thank you so much! Yes, it definitely took is by surprise at first- now we come prepared with pillow-shields haha! So glad to have other families dealing with Tourette’s following along in and relating to our journey- we are all learning new things every day!: )

  7. Matt says:

    i’m pissing myself.. great story..

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