He was a shy child. He’d hide behind me, burying his face in my skirt, refusing to talk to anyone outside his inner circle. His older sister had been the opposite. As a toddler, she’d been a little show off, singing and dancing for complete strangers. Patrick did none of those things.
Once, I lost him in Walmart. After searching for what felt like an eternity, I went to the customer service desk in a bit of a panic. It was unlike him to go off on his own. He usually stayed close to me. They called a Code Adam, refusing to let anyone out until he was found. One of the store employees found my little red-headed boy in the electronics department, sitting in a corner, reading a book. He was about five years old at the time.
While growing up, Patrick took much of the money he received as gifts and used it to purchase musical scores to his favorite movies. As he’d listen to the orchestra, he’d point out when particular scenes had taken place in the movie, pairing the scenes with the music. He’d say something like, “This music plays right before the earth shakes.” And he’d walk me through the movie, scene by scene, as he listened to a CD of the music.
But he couldn’t ride a bike. He couldn’t tie his shoes. He couldn’t open a coke can. And he had to have the fan blowing in his bedroom year round. He excelled in certain classes, yet failed to turn in assignments in others. When scolded, he’d say softly, “I already know that stuff.” He could not succeed when he was bored and I didn’t know at the time that he had Asperger’s Syndrome. He was in high school when the diagnosis came down.
Until then, I simply couldn’t understand why he failed to succeed in classes that were boring—to most of us, those boring classes had been the easy classes. Only the most challenging courses interested him. But school isn’t geared toward the Asperger’s child and my son often struggled. As I look back, I realize music came first even back then. Musical scores thrilled him. Spanish assignments were left undone as he listened to music.
Today, he loves performing, singing as part of a choir and as a soloist. He radiates when the music begins. Emotion dances, sometimes mourning on haunted breath, sometimes jamming with fire and energy, on each note he sings. His red hair has darkened, but when the sun shines on his head, I still see red highlights shimmering. And that skinny little boy has grown into a giant of a man. If I had a penny for every smile he’s put on my face I’d be a billionaire.
I made a post on my personal blog that I’d like to share with you. It makes me think of my son and how music swirls inside him:
Puget Sound, 1990:
I was taking the ferry to Bainbridge Island, Washington, when someone spotted whales in the waters. Many of us gathered at the rails to watch. Moments later, the sounds of a violin filled the air. Standing opposite me, an elderly man had brought the instrument up to his face and was playing a soft tune. At first, he made music as soft as a snowflake while watching the whales show off for us. Then he looked past the whales, across the cold waters, and the music swelled, ethereal and haunting. He closed his eyes and played, his body swaying, pulling salvation from both the heavens and the ocean, from above and below. Tears slid down his face, leathered and wrinkled, rusty and deep. He took a journey into his soul and allowed those of us on the ferry to travel with him and hear the cries of his fiddle.
It was such a beautiful experience it felt like a miracle.