James' song Don't Bore Anyone's Ears, which was sampled in the song I wrote based on his story
Through Your Eyes
James' story, told by Nancy
“Look at everything as though you are seeing it either for the first time or last time. Then your time on earth will be filled with glory”
– Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
My son’s obsession with roads was driving me crazy. “I’ve been interested in Interstate 83 since Mother’s Day 2014!” he told me. Really? It had only been a little over a year? It felt a lot longer.
James is thirteen, and over the years his autism has been responsible for perseverations on shapes, numbers, time, music and maps. The interests come on suddenly, last anywhere from a week to a few years, and get pretty intense. Sometimes the fixations are cool, sometimes mind-boggling, and sometimes just plain irritating.
Eventually, no matter what the topic, I get to a point where I JUST WANT TO TALK ABOUT SOMETHING ELSE!
But my exasperation flew out the window during a recent drive—an excursion to indulge James’s burning desire to glimpse his favorite skyline view of our city from his favorite stretch of his favorite highway. As we sped down the road, James could not contain his gleeful bursts of laughter. I internally shook my head, baffled and yes, slightly annoyed, at the intensity of his pleasure.
“I must be the luckiest boy in the world, because I like so many things!” he exclaimed.
My perspective shifted at sixty miles per hour.
How do I get to where he is?
My son, who needs help understanding so many things, perfectly comprehends what it means to live in the moment and appreciate. Great music, gorgeous sunny days, bike rides (and of course highway drives), family, and HIMSELF. I spend so much time trying to teach my son so many things, but I need to learn this important lesson from him. To see the positive, not the negative. And not just to see it, but to revel in it. And be grateful for it.
Many people say kids with autism see only the concrete. This is a myth my son dispels almost daily. Last year, on my Mother’s Day card, he wrote, “I love the spirit of you.” I love the spirit of you too, James. Sometimes that gets lost in the clatter of therapists, tutors, protocols, and criticisms that crowd our days. But even though James is, in so many ways, a work in progress, his spirit is a masterpiece.
One recent Saturday afternoon, we were running some errands together. At one point during this ordinary day, James turned to me and said something extraordinary.
“Hmmm?” I absentmindedly replied, bracing myself for another comment about
Interstate 83 or a local road.
“I’m thinking about how I feel about my life.”
Astonished, and trying to remain blasé, I asked “Yeah? How do you feel, buddy?”
And in that moment, right there in a nondescript parking lot, so did I.
Thank you, buddy, for showing me how to sit back and enjoy the ride.
Previously published in Chicken Soup For The Soul: The Power Of Gratitude
Listen to Through Your Eyes: