There are many complex issues around writing this blog, confidentiality, whether it is the right thing to do to bare ones soul online or should L know about this blog. But one issue, which also features in our real lives is that this blog assumes I have one child. And I have three.
I will write about K in due course. But tonight is about J. L is at home with two friends. We are going to London tomorrow and they are excited. They will help her eat and I can relax. J phoned today. He is away at school – but please don’t think we are private school people. J is a really gifted musician and a few years ago was given a scholarship to a music school. He boards, but it is a reasonable drive away. I grieved when he went, it was shortly after my father died and the thought of losing my son who found the world so challenging to an alien environment terrified me. But gradually I realised how happy and fulfilled he was and now it is a huge source of joy that he has found a place in the world.
J is worried about L. He has been doing research on the Internet. “I know I’m not, like, the authorised person or anything,” he tells me. He means he isn’t her parent. I smile and tell him I understand that he wants to know. He talks a little then he pauses, sounding hesitant. “The thing is, I read that ten percent of anorexics die. Will L die?”. I stop smiling. My voice breaks. I chose my words carefully. “no, I don’t think she will. But it is a serious illness and we need to support her as much we can. But remember ninety percent get better” L is a rock for J. Like K, he adores her, but often doesn’t know how to show it. J then tells me he has a concert that evening and he is performing the world premiere of a piece he has written. I didn’t know, or more realistically, I have forgotten, absorbed in L and work. I decide that tonight, J needs me more than L and go.
So this evening I sit in a school concert hall. I find it astonishing each time that J, who struggles so much with the rules we all take for granted now inhabits the world of classical music with its many strange and puzzling rituals and he understands it all. He knows when to clap, when to bow and how to take a sheet of symbols and translate it in a way that moves people to tears. He also composes music showing a breathtaking creativity which flies in the face of every nodding professional who told me he could only ever deal with facts.
He performs the piece, with another student. He writes challenging contemporary music which visibly startles the audience yet engages them. I can scarcely breathe when I hear him at times like this. My son, who finds the world so bewildering, creates his own world through music. I look at the audience, some are stunned, some enthralled and others seem as puzzled as J himself so often feels at the state of the world. Is this how it feels to have Aspergers, I wonder, to hear something and not be sure if it is supposed to be like that or to want to make some sense of sounds and ascribe meaning to them, rather than just experience them as sounds. It ends and there is deafening applause. Some students in the audience murmur that he is unbelievable, incredible and a genius. This is the young man who spent his first years at secondary school being mocked as a retard and a weirdo. He is my son and it is not pride that makes want to cry, but joy at how happy he is and how he has managed to do what we all need to do – to find the thing that fulfils him and makes him know this is who he is meant to be.
I see him afterwards and walk back to his dorm. He is always a little taller and smiles to himself because it went well. He is hugely self critical and this is an achievement. I know he really liked the young woman performing with him and I say how pretty she is. Yes, he sighs. I pat his arm and tell him he is a bloody genius. At the gate I hug him.
I have written how sometimes I long for normality and grieve for the life my son will not lead. I know this is nonsense at times like these. I am truly blessed with three extraordinary human beings that happen to be my children. Our lives are challenging, complicated, exhausting, but they are also filed with love and the desire to conform and be normal is its own prison. I would not change anything about all three of them for the world.