At the artist's dinner and award ceremony Saturday evening I sat with one of the judges of Barefoot in the Park 2008. Her name was Debbie. Earlier in the day we discovered that we both had sons with genetic disorders. Suffice it to say that those of us with exceptional children will always gravitate toward each other like a magnet and steel.
Debbie's son Croy has Urea Cycle Disorder, another rare chromosome disorder which is difficult to diagnose. Essentially Croy now has a form of autism which many of you know is reaching epidemic proportions. Debbie actually described her son as a much more friendly "Rain Man."
As I listened to her family's story it occurred to me that I was looking into a mirror. The same thing happened when we spent an evening with the Peter family one week earlier. Each of us have a daughter that acts like a bee around their "exceptional hive." Our futures are truly unknown but our expectations are far beyond what the experts predict. Despite the occasional depressive episode we all are happy families. And rather than dividing our marriages, our situations have made our partnerships closer.
Debbie's family showed up at my booth shortly after my college buddies, David and Christy Pynne, had arrived. After our introduction Croy asked for my birthday. I replied, "September 5th." He immediately responded with, "Friday!" Sure enough, I checked my calendar. My birthday is on Friday this year! Not only had Debbie brought Croy along but the entourage included Croy's sister, two of her friends, Croy's autistic best friend, and Croy's special teacher. The booth was complete mayhem and I loved it! All the kids walked away with 5 x 7 prints. Not much but perhaps a treasure for a child.
Shortly afterwards another autistic son entered the booth accompanied by his mother. This time the "child" was actually an adult. Jimmy had none of the social skills that Croy had. That was apparent as I autographed one of my mom's children's books for him, another gift for a family that needed some inspiration. Jimmy had watched the Pope on television over the weekend so just like the Pope, he was determined to shake as many hands as possible, regardless of how many times the same person's hand was shaken. I'm gonna guess that me, David, and Christy each shook Jimmy's hand about 20 times.
After apologizing for the two intrusions upon our reunion, I found out that it was unnecessary. Over the past few years Dave and Christy have been taking foster children into their home! Mostly kids whose mothers ingested alcohol or illegal drugs while pregnant. I was now seeing the reflection of my friends in the same mirror! I was so thrilled to hear how their son who is about to enter college has been exposed to exceptional kids. To him, it is no big deal!
The funny part is that both me and David could never imagine being the fathers/husbands/changers of society/whatever else back in our college days. Both of us agree that real adulthood maturity happens when you lose something important. Both of our fathers died at a young age (Mr. Pynne at 46, my dad at 51).
It just so happens that David's brother and another of my closest friends, is recovering from quadruple bypass heart surgery. Steve is 47. I ask that all of our readers send some good thoughts toward the Pynne family. They mean a great deal to me.
If there is anything I learned this weekend it is that there are many folks out there making a very quiet difference within our communities. That my friends is how things change for the better. Dave and Christy, thank you so very much for the reunion. I promise to bring Ben along next time. That way we'll teach Ben the influence of New Wave upon the music scene...
"Are we not men? We are Devo!"
Tuesday, April 22, 2008