In 1917 a german man named Charles Huffman was making fabric dye in five gallon enamel pots in a vacant store in Chicago. He named his product RIT dye in honor of his friend, Louis Rittenhouse, a vice president his Sunbeam Chemical Company. Their slogan was, “Never say Dye, say RIT.” We’ve all seen it, probably tie-dyed t-shirts, or dresses. People even use it to dye golfballs or frisbees. The colors Rose Quartz, Hyacinth, Pearl Gray, Tangerine might seem mundane by today’s color name standards.
But when he was a kid, RIT dye fascinated 25 year old Phillip.
I’ve known Philip since he was born. I’d babysit him and he’d play with this new un-installed garbage disposal my landlord left in my rental house while he would tell me all about RIT dye. Phillip lived in Kansas City with his parents, Paul and Pearle, until the two split up the early 2000s. Paul was a P H D student in Ames Iowa when Phillip was diagnosed with what we used to call Aspergers, and we now call Autism Spectrum Disorder.
This is the story of of Phillip and Paul, a 25 year old with autism and the father he lives with. After a childhood of having his world shaped and controlled by others, Phillip was allowed to take risks — big, unsettling risks — and make mistakes. This is the story of how those mistakes transformed him and helped define his way of being in the world. To the point of finding even a little success from the transformative stuff he’s obsessed over since he was a little kid obsessing over that garbage disposal on my living room floor. Today’s thing, is RIT dye. And this episode is, “I’ll be You.”