Home. It’s not always a place you live. Sometimes it’s a place you feel like you belong.
Home can even be a place you go to watch a movie. For the first time in a long time, I wasn’t apprehensive or thinking of contingent plans for attending an event I wasn’t sure Ryan would be interested in. I knew the theater would be filled with people who would understand if he was being rowdy. I knew he would be surrounded by people who had walked some part of his journey or ours.
No matter the location, home is a place you feel like you fit in.
Last night we attended a screening for a magnificent film “Normal People Scare Me Too”. It’s not just magnificent because Ryan was honored to be in it, it’s superb because of the content and the people who created it. Made almost entirely by autistic people it’s a film that has a life force all its own. Asking people on the spectrum directly what it’s like to be autistic, what would you change, and what is your future? You will be surprised by some of the answers and cry for others.
I, too, am blessed to make an appearance in the movie, to answer some of the questions Ryan couldn’t. I hope some day he will tell me I got it right. But sitting there surrounded by this community, I felt completely sure about how I responded. I saw nods of agreement in some of my statements. I was heard and understood. I was home and I was comfortable.
The first time our faces hit the screen, Ryan gasped, “Mom, it’s you!” Then when he realized it was also him, “Oh, it’s me! That’s me!” My heart grew three times its size. What a thrill it must have been for him to see himself in a format (the big screen) he loves so much. I hope that memory stays with him and propels him into following whatever path is his.
At the end of the film, the filmmakers, Keri Bowers and Taylor Cross asked the “cast” in attendance to stay for a question and answer session. Ryan was getting a little worked up at that point and fidgety, and he must have asked 15 times if it was time to go. In any other place, I might have had a twinge of guilt that he was disrupting the people around him. Not there. Not surrounded by those who have walked my path. No one stared at him or shook their head in annoyance. Even the wonderful young man next to us, would look over and nod his head with a sweet look on his face, and I got the feeling he was thinking “I know man, this is taking forever.”
Being the parent of a child on the spectrum, you spend a lot of time worrying about how your child will be perceived. Over the years, I have tried to rise above worrying about other people; but it’s still there-more often than I like to admit. To have an evening out with our whole family, with no worries or stress about how Ryan would react, was in a word: priceless. To share our story and hear the other stories of these amazing young people, buoyed my spirits and left me with hope for our future.
I must tip my hat to Keri Bowers for a quick second. I have to acknowledge that a big part of my comfort zone was created by her and her complete empathy for me and the others there. Her son, Taylor (who made the movie) is on the spectrum and she has blazed a path for so many of us. She could also see Ryan losing interest and didn’t care one bit. She took her time engaging all of us on the panel, all with ease and grace. Her warmth surrounded me completely. Thank you, Keri for making me feel at home.
There are some truly awe-inspiring people in the world, some of them happen to have autism. I met a few of them last night. I hope you watch the movie and revel in them too.
(For more about this film check out the website http://www.normalfilms.com. Buy a copy of the movie, you will truly enjoy the interviewees and walk away enlightened; weather or not you know someone on the spectrum.)