One day, I went to my deck to write and enjoy the fresh air; I opened up my iTunes library to find a song to spur my creativity. To my surprise, my oldest son’s name stood next to several songs he had created and featured on my playlist. Due to a dedicated teacher at a school that fosters individual passions, my son has become enthralled with a music composing program called Garage Band; he has spent many summer hours happily creating away. To see my son’s name on my iTunes list was beyond my understanding of how Garage Band worked. I am reminded of my son’s stated dreams. “I want to be a DJ like Moby.” He can tell you about every Moby album, every song. Every time he sees a bald man, he states, “I thought I saw Moby today!” and then he bursts into laughter.
As I sat on my deck and saw my boy’s name, I was held in a moment of pure surprise and anticipation. My finger hit the play button. I listened, really listened to the songs of my son. In one song, he had recorded his voice over pulsating drumbeats and lively piano rhythms, “Everybody stop! Listen to the beat! Feel the rhythm of the music under your feet!” He entitled it: The Beat Goes On. Is it Gloria Estefan or Sonny and Cher who influenced him more? I come across another song, his remake of George Michael’s Father Figure. Original words were kept like, “greet me with the eyes of a child” and “heaven is a kiss and a smile.” I think George and my son are on to something. Other words of his own making were added. “That’s all I wanted, something special, something fun. That’s all I wanted, just to be so happy and very glad.”
Dreaming is a tricky thing.
Sometimes my imagination soars off too unrealistically and quickly, like when my youngest son was born on the day that Neil Armstrong walked the moon, and therefore was preordained in my mind to be an astronaut when he grew up. Or when he handed me his first written piece, and I saw him as a budding author. Or when my daughter’s power with a racket and a tennis ball had me fantasizing that she was the next Serena Williams. I would sit in the box seats at Wimbledon, bantering with the princes and drinking mint juleps with my delicate pinkie finger held daintily upward because that’s what all rich people do. Or when my oldest son entered a spell when he could quickly tell you the time around the world as I called out country names; surely he was the next Albert Einstein or Magellan! Or when he drew elaborate train systems on papers he taped together and ran them through our house in long pathways. An engineer or an architect? The possibilities were endless!
Sitting on my suburban deck as I listened to my son’s songs, humbling tears rolled down my face. My oldest son is autistic. While he is funny, joyful, talkative and one of my greatest teachers, his road has also been filled with many challenges that limit his experiences. After many bumps in the road and approaching adulthood that won’t--at least at this age of 17--include college visits or job hunting or going to parties with friends, I find a shift within. As his songs played, it hit me that without even realizing it, my dreams for him had been diminishing. I allowed traditional timetables and hardships to overshadow his unique gifts. While I understand my autistic son faces challenges that are quite difficult at times, he need not be limited by my own lack of imagination for him.
Maybe music will lead to developing deeper friendships with others who share his passion; building bridges for him to do so is certainly a direction I’m taking. Maybe music is an avenue to a profession of some sort; weekly music lessons with a musician is a part of my son’s activities. However, I don’t want to go the other way and be so focused on a specific goal that I miss another possibility, equally valid. What if the only outcome was that he found pleasure in the composing process, and that I, when given a glimpse into his inner, creative world, felt the purest of joys to experience such a view? Would that be enough?
I run inside. “I love your songs! What a beautiful surprise to find them listed in my iTunes library!”
My son raises his eyebrows and sweetly smiles. The joyful look on his face; our love for each other; that moment of pure emotional connection; the continued conversation around his passion for music.
We all hold the capacity to create our own happiness, everyday, in our unique way. We are always becoming. We are always finding our way.
While my autistic son’s challenges are taking him down far different pathways than most, can I trust that he is on his own unique developmental curve, just as I am, just as we all are?
My son’s words keep resonating…that’s all I wanted, just to be so happy and very glad. I am listening to the song of my autistic son; his voice reaches deep within me singing the underlying message…dream for me.