My son is special. Not necessarily helmet special, but sometimes it's close. He has a certain naive gumpish quality about him sometimes and I'm not being mean when I say the word savant has slipped into my brain on more than one occasion.
His was a traumatic birth. I won't go into details because there may be one of you who is knocked up and you really don't need to be hearin' about chit like that because everything is going to be HUNKY DORY for joo, darlin'. Suffice it to say that it was no day at the beach for me, and it has been a battle for him from the start. But my boy's a fighter.
As a result of oxygen deprivation, he had severe damage to the right side of his brain which left him with left hemiparesis, a form of cerebral palsy that causes him to limp a little bit and makes his left hand draw up. It has atrophied to the point where it is almost backwards in its positioning. He has no fine motor skills on that side at all, although he does have some sensation and uses that arm as a 'helper'. At around age 7, he also started having seizures. Not grand mal seizures, but they are bad enough to be disruptive as he tends to lose track of where he is and what he is doing when he has one. He'll look at me and say "It's happening" and he can talk through them, but when they are over he's just spacey. Two years ago, though, he had a grand mal seizure.
He started 'school' as an infant with physical therapy, speech therapy, and a program called PEEP (Prompt Early Enrichment Program), then a spent few years at the Harrison County Center for Exceptional Children, then Head Start and then he was mainstreamed. He didn't play with toys much as a kid-he was more likely to sit in his room and play school all by himself. He would play all the parts of teacher, students, principal-all with different voices and mannerisms. I would stand outside his bedroom door eavesdropping, just entranced. He liked shows like Flipper and Lassie and "Michelle" but was never really into cartoons. About the same time he started having seizures he discovered wrestling. This child who struggled so hard with school was suddenly an expert on all things WWF. He memorized every statistic on every wrestler he saw on TV and in every magazine he could get his hands on. Suddenly his reading comprehension improved, so we let him roll with it.
When he started high school, one of his special ed teachers and the basketball coach got together and decided to try him out as the team videographer which seemed to bring him out of his shell. Being part of the team seemed to open him up somehow, and he began to make some friends. They also encouraged him to take drama, and that has become his passion. He acted in every school play from that point on. He also joined a teen community theater organization called Acting Anonymous that went around to nursing homes, retirement communities and hospitals putting on plays, doing readings, and clowning. (It was during one of their productions of "Thriller" when he got overheated while performing that he had the grand mal seizure.) He has been in every children's theater production that Center Stage in Biloxi put on for about four years. He loves anything to do with theater and film production. But we live in Moss Point, and it got to be a real ordeal with me having to drive back and forth every day for rehearsals as he can't drive because of the seizures. So I said no more.
He spent the next year basically on the couch at the little house up the road. Because he was in the special ed program when he graduated high school he did not get a diploma-he got a certificate of attendance which was basically worthless as the community college he got a scholarship to (yes! to be the basketball team videographer!) required a diploma or a GED to enroll. So he worked his butt off and after four attempts finally got his GED. Too late for the scholarship, but not too late for my mama. (Ok to insert a ya mama joke here, Purv.) My mama decided this year to get my boy off that couch so she has taken him under her wing and enrolled both herself and Alex in the community college close to her home. She is taking a design class and he is taking Fundamentals of Acting and Theater Appreciation. One of the requirements for his classes was that he audition for the school plays, and he won roles in both the fall play and the one they will put on closer to the winter holidays. Tonight is his opening night.
So-anyone out there in the area that doesn't have plans one night this week is encouraged to come see mah baby in his college theater debut in the role of Gerry in "Dancing at Lughnasa". I'll be the one there whispering under her breath "Run, Forrest, run."