By Zita Dube-Lockhart
Everything I need to know about parenting, I learned from Mr. Holland.
Growing up, I was often told that I was born with the “song of God written on my heart”.
In the film, Glenn Holland (played devastatingly well by Richard Dreyfuss), battles his own demons with his son. You see him going through the stages of grief. You watch as he rejects this child because of his disability.(Transcript from the movie Mr. Holland’s Opus, as taken from IMDB)
[Glenn and Iris are discussing the possibility of sending Cole to a special school]Glenn Holland: The doctor said that gestures meant…Iris Holland: It’s way more than gestures.Glenn Holland: That gestures meant that Cole would never learn how to lip read or to talk!Iris Holland: He can barely talk now, he can’t say two or three words!Glenn Holland: The guy is a specialist, Iris!Iris Holland: Ohhh, he’s a specialist who thinks that deaf people are retarded and he is not retarded, he is…[Cole is screaming, asking for something and Iris doesn’t know what it is]Iris Holland: Cole!Glenn Holland: What does he…? Give him what he wants!Iris Holland: I don’t know what he wants, I don’t understand what he’s trying to say. Don’t you get it? You walk to school every day with all these children who are normal. I can’t talk to my son! I don’t know what he wants or what he thinks or what he feels. I can’t tell him that I love him, I can’t tell him who I am. I want to talk to my son! I don’t care what it costs, I don’t care what the stupid doctor says it’s right or wrong. I want to talk to my son!
Iris Holland: [Iris is translating Cole’s signing for Glenn] Why do you assume that John Lennon’s death would mean nothing to me? Do you think I’m stupid? I know who John Lennon is.Glenn Holland: [Glenn turns to Iris] I never said that he…Iris Holland: [Iris continues translating] I cant read your lips if you don’t look at me.Glenn Holland: [Glenn looks back at Cole] I never said you were stupidIris Holland: You must think so. If you think I don’t know who The Beatles are or any music at all. You think I don’t care about what it is you do or what you love? You’re my father. I know what music is. You could help me to know it better, but – no. You care more about teaching other people than you do about me.Glenn Holland: [Cole makes a final gesture, Iris doesn’t translate it] Iris… What does this meanIris Holland: That means “asshole”.
No, Cole was not ‘stupid’. Cole was not incapable of grasping the incredible events happening around him.
Not being able to hear is not the same as not being able to understand.
Not being able to speak is not the same as having nothing to say.
“Low functioning” they say. As if words are the only expression of capacity.
Something changed for Glenn Holland the day that his son expressed to him that he was truly capable of understanding and relating to the world despite his disability. Something in his heart softened. Something in his mind opened.
A connection was made.
And he became a very different person.
A very different father.
He learned- through the example of Beethoven and hearing through vibration- that music could be accommodated to meet his son’s needs. He learned that while Cole might never be able to hear with his ears, he could hear with his heart and experience its pleasures.
He created music for the deaf. And he told his son that he was beautiful.
When he was about three and half, Sam discovered an app on his ipad that played his favourite song.
“Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star”
He played it over and over.
You could tell he loved it.
Even if he couldn’t tell me so…
Until one day he did.
And my child sang. For the first time. But it would not be the last.
I have often been told that my voice is like the song of God, written on my heart.
That when I sing, it is like to the voices of angels, heard on earth.
Beauty is in finding your voice, whatever shape it may take, and sharing it with the world.
Beauty is in learning to sing because your heart occupies so much joy that it can not contain it.
It simply must be expressed.
I am far from a perfect parent. But I learned an awful lot from that movie.
I learned that grief is a natural part of the human experience when things turn out differently than we imagined.
I learned that the only way to form a meaningful connection is to cast aside your preconceived notions about what communication should look like, and learn to find a language that you both can share.
I learned that to love your child isn’t to try to change them; it is to change the world for them.
And I learned that having a disability does not- in any way- impact your capacity for human understanding.
One day, I will share Mr. Holland with Sam, and he will know that my journey to acceptance really took flight the day I heard him sing.
Original post at Autism, Or Something Like It: http://autismorsomethinglikeit.blogspot.ca/2014/04/expressions-of-positivity-everything-i.html