Back to blogging with my three co-bloggers! Each week, one of us chooses a topic and we all post a blog entry on that topic, usually on Thursdays. (Usually we are on time. Usually. Ok, mostly. Sometimes? Don’t judge me.)
Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:
This week, I chose the topic, and I asked everyone to write about a time music touched their very soul. Here’s my take:
My Five Loyal Readers know me well enough to make an educated guess that I’m going to write about Bon Jovi. I certainly could write about the way in which Bon Jovi music has touched me, again and again and again. I could fill many posts. Hell, I could write a book.
But not today. No, this post goes out to Ben Folds, a musician I rarely talk about, someone whom I don’t follow, someone I’ve seen live exactly twice – and only because he was a co-headliner with someone I do follow, Rufus Wainwright.
So, a little background. I love music. Love it. I’m partial to rock, but I will listen to anything once. I’m not one to say I hate an entire a genre; sure, I’m not a huge fan of current pop music, but you’ll find some Robin Thicke on my iPod, and I kinda like that one Taylor Swift song. I take songs and artists as they come. Hell, I’ve even got a soft spot in my heart for Bro Country and all things Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton. Mock if you must; I like what I like.
Many years ago, I stumbled upon the music of Rufus Wainwright. He’d recorded a cover of He Ain’t Heavy (He’s My Brother) for the Shrek soundtrack, which I bought for my eldest, who was then my only. I absolutely loved Rufus’ voice. The depth is incredible. He’s also a talented pianist, guitarist, and songwriter. I bought his then-current CD and the ones that came before, and I became a fast fan.
I happily bought a ticket to see Rufus during his Want One tour, and it was worth every penny. A few years later, he came to Ravinia, just down the road from my home in Chicago, and I again bought tickets. This time, Rufus split his stage time with Ben Folds, each using only a piano to play their songs. I’d never before heard Ben Folds, and I enjoyed him. His songs were gentle and well written, but I took a particular shine to a song entitled, simply, Gracie. The song was written for Ben Folds’ daughter. It’s sweet and funny and I love it – because I, too, have a Gracie.
I don’t like to use my young kids’ names when I post or Facebook, but many of you know my kids and know that my 12 is named Grace. When she was little, on her own volition, she started calling herself Gracie. She would walk up and introduce her little self and say, “Hi, I’m Gracie!” We went with it – why not? So, of course, Ben Folds song made me smile, and I went out and bought his CD so I could play it for her. (She, being a toddler, of course, could not have cared less.)
Several years after I saw Ben Folds at Ravinia, Grace’s doctor suggested we take her for some testing, as he suspected she had Asperger’s Syndrome or high-functioning autism. The process took three or four months from start to finish and involved numerous visits to a major medical center in Chicago. I can’t say the process was hard, because it wasn’t, but it was stressful, because an autism diagnosis – even one of mild autism – is scary and life changing. But even in the face of the fear, we did what we were told to do, starting with our first consult in September or October, through the final diagnosis at the end of the year.
The diagnostic process finished with a parent/doctor consult at the hospital in mid-December. We left Gracie at school and climbed into the car to drive the ten or so miles to the medical center. My husband and I were both nervous, for the same reason. We knew what we were about to hear; the tests had really been more of a means of having an official diagnosis and advice as to therapies. We handled our stress similarly, neither wanting to talk about what we knew we’d hear until after we heard it. Neither of us wanted to talk about much of anything, really, and so Jerry turned on the radio to distract himself while he drove.
Unfortunately, he’d turned on something God-awful (we don’t have similar musical tastes), and I knew ‘80s Chicago songs were going to make me more tense, not less. So, I pulled out my iPhone and plugged in my earphones and Shuffled my music, trying to calm myself down.
And then Gracie came on. And then I ever so quickly turned Gracie off.
I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t listen to it. So full was my heart with fear and sadness and love, I simply could not bear to listen to the song that Ben Folds wrote for his own daughter, the song I’d long identified with my own. I’m not much of a crier; I don’t like to cry and I didn’t want to cry then, for many reasons. I didn’t want my husband more stressed out, and I didn’t want to walk into a meeting with messed up makeup. I needed my wits about me. Which meant I could not listen to that song at that moment.
In fact, it would be a long time before I could again listen to Gracie. My Grace is coming up on her third anniversary of her diagnosis, and my views on autism have grown and changed. I no longer feel the fear I once did (not that I have none, because I do). More importantly, I’ve come to appreciate that my Gracie would not be the child I know and I love without the special wiring in her head. I see the strengths and benefits autism imparts to her – and there are many. Of course, I still see the struggles, but I try to focus more on the progress she’s made, the struggles she’s overcome, the incredibly strong young woman she’s turning into.
I can listen to Gracie now, because I might tear up, but I’m no longer crying for the reasons I once would have. I’m crying for the feelings every parent shares: the pride in watching a child grow and change, the love that bursts your heart every now and then (when you aren’t wondering how you’re going to survive the ‘tween and teen years).
My husband says he can’t “hear” lyrics, and I feel badly for him. Maybe that means he will be spared from the reactions I have when I hear a song that truly hits me in the heart, but that’s just sad. How lucky am I that I can hear a string of sentences set to music by Ben Folds, and my heart can just open up and let go. It’s not always desirable, but I cannot imagine living without that feeling. The loss of that ability would be enough to make me cry.
I’m guessing my words don’t do justice to the feelings inspired by Ben Folds’ song, or to his beautiful, clever words. So, here’s a link to Gracie, along with the lyrics. Try reading them in the context of my Gracie. And try not to cry. Or, better yet, go right ahead.
You can’t fool me, I saw you when you came out
You’ve got your momma’s taste, but you’ve got my mouth
And you will always have a part of me
No one else is ever gonna see
With your cards to your chest, walking on your toes
What you got in the box only Gracie knows
And I would never try to make you be
Anything you didn’t really want to be, Gracie girl
Life flies by in seconds
You’re not a baby, Gracie, you’re my friend
You’ll be a lady soon, but until then
You gotta do what I say
You nodded off in my arms watching TV
I won’t move an inch even though my arm’s asleep
One day you’re gonna want to go
I hope we taught you everything you need to know
And there will always be a part of me
No one else is ever gonna see but you and me
My little girl
My Gracie girl