I mentioned Paul Weller in the last post. As my good fortune would have it, Joey and I got to see “The Modfather” at The Best Buy Theater on Saturday night. The last time I saw Weller live was when he was with The Style Council and I had just graduated college. That was in 1984. To be in NYC once again, watching an older, grayer Paul with my 16-year old son made me feel simultaneously old and young. There’s an old Jam song, “I Got By in Time,” a two-minutes and six-seconds treatise on the ticking of the clock and how our memories are all we have left. On Saturday, my past and present were one.
Back to the previous post. “I was looking there for something, some things have no meaning” – that’s a line from “I Didn’t Mean to Hurt You,” a track from Weller’s eponymous debut as a solo artist. I always remember listening to that on the way to The Center for Speech and Langauge Disorders, an anxiety filled drive to accept delivery on what Karen and I knew would be the bad news that Nate was autistic.
Funny thing. Until recently I thought the line was, “I was looking there for something, some things have no reason.” I even wrote it up that way in the first version of my book proposal on raising Nate. I was floored to hear the song late last year and realize, to my shock, that the correct word was “meaning.”
I’ve dwelt on that mistake since. Back in 1993, when our world momentarily came crumbling down, it made perfect sense for me to think that Nate’s autism came without reason. Why him? Why us? It wasn’t fair and didn’t need to be. And, though we as parents quickly got down to work, Karen and I suffered from sporadic depression over this new and terrible situation.Never at the same time though. When she was crying, crushed, I had hope. When I was more depressed than my usual norm, she was upbeat. Sure, it came our way for no reason, but that was our reality.
Ah, but that’s not so. It’s not true in the song and it’s not true in our lives. Nate’s hyperlexia surely came from a reason unknown to us, genetic, environmental, whatever. But when it comes to meaning, well, we’ve been all about meaning ever since. Having Nate has given a depth to our lives, has changed us for the better in ways that would have been inconceivable without him. That’s not to say any of us prefer it this way. Nate’s existence is not to provide us perspective and understanding. I’d rather still be the moody, insensitive person I was circa early 1990’s before Nate’s diagnosis, if that trade would take away Nate’s autism. Not an option though, so we move on.
As you can imagine, I’ve been looking backward a lot since college graduation. More so than usual, though not to the exclusion of moving forward on Nate’s various options. But as I think about Paul Weller, and the difference between “reason” and “meaning,” I realize, not for the first time, how much I’ve grown by being Nate’s father. His successes are more meaningful than my own, and my successes would not have happened without him. That’s something I see clearly, now more than ever. And that means everything.