“…there might be a deeper meaning to the series as a whole. This is something I touched upon on my own post for today (autism and spirituality–maybe they’ll get that angle right).
wrote one commenter after watching ABC’s new legal TV drama, Eli Stone: In reading responses and commentary on the show, I’ve been struck at how often people have talked about faith—a New York Times editorial about the show is entitled Eli Stone’s Overleap of Faith—and stating that they appreciate the show because it brings other topics into the discussion about autism. While the court case that Stone successfully argues involves vaccines and “mercuritol,” a stand-in for thimerasol that is claimed to have caused a child to become autistic, it is matters of faith and spirituality that people seem particularly to be eager to hear about in regard to autism.
It does seem to me that people—certainly parents of autistic children—want to make sense of their experience; they want, they need, some kind of support to get through each day. Some focus themselves on uprooting why their child became autistic, and the belief that vaccines or something in vaccines directly caused a child to become autistic provides a straightforward answer, a simple answer such as can be explained within the time frame of a one-hour TV show. But life raising an autistic child is—like child-rearing as a whole—a 24/7 matter and a real representation of what it’s really like, and real explanations of what causes autism, are perhaps too large, too messy.
That’s why my preferred metaphors for describing what life with Charlie is like are those of the journey and the long and winding, rocky, road, around whose bends who knows what adventure awaits; it’s why I also think of our life with Charlie as an epic, as a long narrative full of exploits and travels not altogether unlike, if you will, the stories in the ancient epic poems of Homer, the Iliad—-the story of Achilles in the Trojan War—and the Odyssey—-the story of Odysseus’ long journey back home to Ithaca. I do think of my son as the hero of such an epic (and have written of him as such): Certainly the courage, bravery, determination, sheer will he displays in trying to write the /s/ of his last name, to pedal over a few more streets with Jim, to wear a stiff new pair of basketball shoes, are equal (in this mother’s eyes) to Achilles standing before the walls of Troy or Odysseus facing the Cyclops. Certainly I feel myself to sometimes be in the role of Achilles’ mother, the sea nymph Thetis who tried to make Achilles invincible by dipping him, while a baby, into the waters of the River Styx: I feel I’ve done everything I could to help and protect him, but sometimes things just don’t work out and I become a witness to the suffering. Certainly I sometimes feel I’m standing up for Charlie and my belief in him just as Antigone stood before King Creon in Sophocles’ tragedy, and tells him that is it the laws of the gods she following in breaking the king’s law and burying her dead brother, who was Creon’s enemy.
I don’t know what it is about life with Charlie. Somehow, so often, things seem to be in sharper focus, small things become the stuff of great concern and of celebration. Casual conversations begin not with pleasantries about the weather, but with “he’s been up since 3.30am and I have to.” Trips to buy a basket of groceries become the stuff of household legend, not to mention visits to the dentist and in the barber’s chair. The other evening Charlie and I went out for a pre-dinner walk. Though it was to rain the next day, the sky was so clear that I could see a full zodiac of constellations: I sighted the Big Dipper, Cygnus the Swan, the hunter Orion, all duly pointed out to Charlie who was happily sloshing through some dead and muddy leaves. The ancient Greeks used those same stars to navigate their ships, I thought, rather grandiosely, and here Charlie and I are, looking as ever for a way to chart our meandering course, seeded with surprises.
I am not at all sure if Charlie will ever be able to read any ancient literature; simple, single words are a challenge enough for now. He never gives up, we never give up, and sometimes it’s just a dogged faith that keeps us going on—last and first, a simple faith in Charlie, that he can.
And to me, that’s why Charlie’s story is a part of a much bigger, and (just to sound a grandiose note again) a timeless, story.