J’s teacher writes to let me know that she doesn’t know what was going through his mind today, but he suddenly stood up, put his arms in the air and struck a pose that was interpreted by all who witnessed it as “I am the champion!” I’ve seen this pose…sometimes it comes in the heels of finishing his run with the Wii; other times it’s attached to music… Because she didn’t give too much detail, I can’t figure out where it came from this time, but I do know that it’s not random or lacking in significance.
For a person whose ability to communicate and empathize is impaired, J finds music a very effective way to tell us how he’s feeling, to inform his moods with music. After reading the teacher’s note, I sat on the steps that lead to the basement and listened to what he was doing. Call it spying if you will, but I think it’s all in the spirit of trying to figure out how he’s feeling.
The choices these past few days have been varied. On Monday, after his outburst of Sunday evening, J was listening to Debussy’s Clair de Lune repeatedly; there was no sadness involved, but it did seem to relax him. Yesterday he was happily listening to one particular spot in a DVD…one with boings and sproings that made him laugh, and he came to bed with a spring in his step.
I don’t know what it means, but this afternoon he was listening to Jim Croce’s I Got a Name, a song that basically speaks of self-respect and full understanding of who you are and your purpose in life, even if it’s not clear to others. Does it have anything to do with a moment, perhaps of illumination, that he experienced today at school?
Reading too much into things is something that one does when the details are scant and the possibility of being enlightened is nil. There are days when we feel as if we have to unravel a mystery when we observe J. Because we cannot ask him and get a straightforward answer, we often seem to be adding one detail to another, and trying to figure out what they all mean. We could spend hours talking about J, referring back to previous incidents, composing potential scenarios…if we added some drinking to the mix, we could be holding a symposium in the Ancient Greek fashion. I think, personally, that Socrates would have been totally into discussing J, and J would have taken rather well to the Socratic Method. That’s just me, though…
The thing that struck me today was that sentence: “I don’t know what was going through J’s mind, but…” I read it aloud and he looked at me, his face completely non-committal. A run-of-the-mill teenager would have shrugged, given a roll of the eyes and said “I don’t know what she’s talking about,” or they would have walked out and said “whatever!” J looked at me as if I had read this sentence and it referred to someone else. Then I peered at him through my sawdust-covered glasses (long story…not germane to the situation except to explain the extra effort) and he smiled. CLOTHES? Yeah, I said, go change your clothes…
An hour later Dada came home with TGG in tow, and I read the note out loud again. This time, J rolled his eyes and walked out of the room after instructing everyone to change their work clothes into at-home clothes. Jim Croce started singing once more.
I can’t help wondering if it’s a newfound sense of achievement. I wonder if J is just aware that he is in control of things that he was afraid he wouldn’t be in control of…like his dependence on his gloves. I wonder if he stood up and said to himself “It’s been a week and I don’t need the friggin’ gloves!!!” Since he knows he can’t stand on furniture and since he probably assumes it would look goofy, he stood up and raised his arms in the air. The closest thing would have been playing the Theme from Rocky or reciting Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself:
I CELEBRATE myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
We celebrate J’s achievements whether they are big or small. We make sure we let him know that he is admired and respected, and we encourage him to try new things. The gloves, however, were his own decision. OK, we PRAYED vigorously, but God helps those who help themselves and, in this particular case, it was J’s doing…all of it. We didn’t cajole, persuade, suggest, hint, force, indicate, steer, push…
Perhaps today, in one of those a-ha moments we all have from time to time, J realized that he has gone almost a whole week without his gloves and that he can function and that, while everyone is proud of him, he has to give himself a pat in the back. Eureka! would have worked (it did for Archimedes,) so would have Nike! (which Pheidippides used to announce the result of the Battle of Marathon.) But J simply got up, put his arms in the air and gave his class a moment to relish.
“We must remember this moment,” the teacher’s note continued. Indeed, we must. The rich layers of guitars in Croce’s song, the “and I’m gonna go there free, like the fool I am and I’ll always be…” Yeah, that’s J all over…his dreams are constructed slightly different from ours, but there’s a definite sense of self, of achievement, of celebration in the way he speaks to himself and to us about them. Sproing or boing; Debussy; Paul Simon’s The Obvious Child (with the drums of Olodum making J skip and bounce in a dance of joy,) the plaintive longing in Big Star’s Thirteen…it’s not PECS or ASL, but J’s talking…
And don’t you forget it.