I belong to a community, although we’re scattered into support groups and acronyms, Web sites and understanding strangers in the waiting room.
We have children who are different.
Comparisons are tenuous. A life with a kid in a wheelchair, or dying of leukemia, or with Down Syndrome, or any number of other challenges is not the same as mine, but some of it is, and most of that, I suspect, is just what the rest of you don’t know.
It becomes natural, all second thoughts spared. You do what needs to be done and you forget that you might ever have dreamed it could have been different.
Except when you don’t, of course. I have those days.
I stay up late at night, waiting to hear the car pull in the driveway. I watch for signs of drug use, not sure how I’d deal with it. I stay out of his room, hoping I don’t spy a pack of condoms and then maybe thinking I’d be grateful if I did. I slip him an extra 50 on prom night and tell him what my dad told me — call me, no questions asked, I’ll come get you, be safe. I roll my eyes at his weird friends and enjoy his cool ones, thankful for the good influence. I go to his plays, or concerts or games. I wait in the parking lot while he finishes work, stocking the shelves or bussing the tables. I endure slammed doors and almost-fistfights and derision for Dad, who can’t know anything. We talk about colleges and goals.
It’s fleeting and hardly ever happens, but sometimes. Sometimes I remember what I thought when he was born, what I imagined. But mostly I just live, and love him, and it’s never been any other way.
His mom’s gone a lot, so we hang. He tells me pretty much everything, even things I really don’t want to know. I fight alongside him, against the depression and the obsessions and the compulsions. I tell him everything’s going to be all right, when really I can’t know that. I rarely think about tomorrow, not with him. We just make it through the day, and it’s second nature.
But sometimes I want something else, so I have nights like last night. Just some adult conversation about politics and movies, Mexican food and maybe some commentary on Sarah Michelle Gellar’s sorry post-Buffy career.
I went to the movies with a friend last night, just to get out of the house. He suggested “The Lookout,” and we both sort of grinned when we came out. We got lucky this time.
The minute I saw Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the lead actor, I had to fight the urge to rack my brain until I figured out where I knew him from. Turns out he played Tommy in “3rd Rock From The Sun,” along with the young Norman in “A River Runs Through It” and the kid in “Angels In The Outfield,” along with a bajillion other parts. This kid’s been working his whole life.
It’s an indie, a small story that is so lean, so well-written and -acted that I squirmed through the movie just from the pleasure (also, I was a little sore; not a big deal). Gordon-Levitt plays a former high school athlete, a victim of a car accident, who now in his early 20s is slightly brain damaged and struggling through a confusing world.
As my friend mentioned, it’s probably not a film I’d return to soon, but just because it’s so neat and contained, like a short story. Its complexity is in the narrative and the dramatic tension, not the metaphors. Still, the scenes have stayed with me today, and for reasons I understand.
Like Chris, the character Gordon-Levitt plays, my son has his nose pressed against the glass, watching life but not quite part of it. He, too, has trouble with forgetfulness and blurting out things that are better left unsaid. And, like Chris, I could see him flattered by false friends, led astray and into trouble because he couldn’t read body language and see souls that were up to no good.
Two thumbs up from me. It’s tense, it’s sad at times, it’s a little violent, there are bits and pieces of spectacular cinematography. You could do worse.
Me, I was glad to get out, and glad to come home. I told John about it, and he groaned at some of the scenes that struck a little close. It was a feeling I shared, in the superficial way that I can, a sense of recognition and also understanding that I can’t ever know what it’s really like to be inside, and that in a real way I’ll always be on the outside looking in, just like watching a movie.