I opened the cd case to find several of my favorites missing. Where was Marvin (Gaye)? Al (Green)? The Temptations? I was certain I’d put them all back in the case. Where were those cds? Maybe Martina had them in her car. She likes to listen to cds as she drives. No, she hadn’t seen those particular ones.
Later that evening I was downstairs in the kitchen talking to Martina when I heard Al Green plaintively wailing he was “Tired of Being Alone”. It was coming from Julian’s room. I arrived at his door to find Julian listening to Green’s greatest hits, watching Disney’s “The Aristocats” and viewing “The Jungle Book” on an IPAD. All this while proudly gazing down on his bed, arms akimbo, where he had arrayed his myriad Disney dvd boxcovers.
I’ve mentioned scenes like this before, where one can witness Julian’s ability, or maybe need, to take in multiple auditory streams at once. His face was the picture of bliss and contentment. I hesitated to interrupt his “flow” but I had to investigate the missing cds. I found out that he did have all the ones I’d been looking for earlier that day. I can’t say that I was totally surprised.
Music has been a major component in Julian’s life. When he was very young and not too verbal music could always get him going. He’d clap his hands and attempt to sing along. As he got older he always wanted his portable cd player with him. It was interesting to watch us pile into the car, to go anywhere. The market, the park, the mall. The destination didn’t matter he would haul that player and about ten cds around, along with his stuffed animals. Boy was the ipod a welcome innovation.
I think, amateur psychiatrist that I am, the music has served to help Julian find a calming place when he might otherwise be overwhelmed with the world and its demands. Every night, before he goes to bed, he is listening to music. His preference has always been R&B, Disney soundtracks and classic soul. The latter came from hearing something he liked that Martina and I were playing for our enjoyment.
The dialogue usually goes as follows.
”Dad who’s that?”
”Earth, Wind and Fire”
”When was that made?”
”When I was a kid.”
”I think I like it! Could I listen to it?”
Of course we always hand over the cd, never to see it again. Well, maybe in passing while in Julian’s room. Remember when someone with autism latches onto something they usually can’t let go. Martina and I are well aware of this fact, so whenever he inquires about one of our cds we know it’s goodbye. There is a certain look Martina gives me when this occurs. It’s a look that suggest it was fun while it lasted. We joke that Julian’s room is a graveyard for cds. It probably will not surprise you to know that we regard this as a very small price to pay, for Julian to have something that brings him such comfort.
It even comes in the form of “out of season” music fare sometimes. It is not uncommon, in the spring or dead of summer, to hear holiday music spreading its cheer from Julian’s room. As Martina will attest to, one of her favorites, Vanessa Williams’ christmas cd has been heard on the Fourth of July in our house. It works for Julian and that’s what counts.
At the time of this writing I took a moment and walked to the bottom of the stairs and could hear Marvin Gaye’s “Can I Get a Witness” coming from his room. It brought a smile to my face. A few minutes later, when I had returned to my writing in our home office, Julian dropped in to visit. I had Smokey Robinson and The Miracles greatest hits cd playing in the background. “The Tears of A Clown” was reaching its end when I recognized that look of excited discovery on Julian’s face.
”Hey Dad, who’s that?”
Uh-oh. Nice knowing you Smokey.