This Autism Awareness Month, I suggest we be aware of the power of dreams.
On Autism Awareness Day 2019, on April 2, Dar made sure to make us aware of him. He woke up screaming at Dark O’Clock, which was at about 5. Why does he regularly wake up sounding like you would sound at the moment you got Joe Theismann’s career-ending injury? (Picture your lower leg bending forward like it normally does forward.) Since he can’t tell us, we’re left to guess.
Sometimes I wonder if it’s dreams. He might have really bad dreams and no way to effectively process them. He might literally scream himself awake and then continue his screaming (at slightly lower decibels, normally) because he has no way to get himself back to sleep. Toddlers are like that. And we have a #toddlerforlife here. Not a hashtag that anyone wants to see trending.
Another Berkeley resident once asked, do androids dream of electric sheep? I wonder, do severe autistics dream of intellectually disabled sheep? I’ll never know.
On Autism Awareness Day, I dragged myself out of bed and took Dar downstairs, where his screams are slightly more muffled. I went back to bed at about 5:10am. I tried not to think about the two classes I had to teach at St. Mary’s that day. Instead, I tried to let my mind drift. Dreams, real dreams, have a power that often goes undiscussed: they prove that we slept. If I lie there for two hours without a dream, I often can’t be sure if my mind actually clicked off for even a moment. But if I have a dream…I feel great relief. I feel more de-cluttered than Marie Kondo could ever do. Even if the dream was nightmarish.
On Autism Awareness Day, at some point between 5:10 and 6:45 (when our younger child tends to knock on our door asking for permission to go downstairs), I dreamed that I was playing some kind of standup video game set in a giant universe a la World of Warcraft. Clearly not a memory. Yay for dreams. With that refreshment, I was able to get up, go downstairs, deal with Dar’s ongoing noises, go to work, teach classes, and write the beginning of this entry.
Does Dar dream in the sense of envisioning a future for himself? If so, what sort of future does he want? Is it something other than the life we’ve built for him? No way to know. Prompting him through rote responses on his proloquo2go ain’t gonna answer.
The other day, I heard the beginning of The Cranberries’ “Dreams” and felt an accidental flood of emotions. When Dolores O’Riordan died, like everyone else, I listened to it (as part of listening to the two Cranberries albums I own). This was the first time I had heard it since that month. This time, those “pluh-pluh-PLAH” guitars meant something else. They took me right back to 1993-1994, when me and the rest of Generation X was yet to be defined. When it was one of the lovers’ themes in Chungking Expressand Hilary Swank’s practice jam in The Next Karate Kid.When it meant “what will we become?” Before Kurt, Tupac, and Biggie died. Before Matt and Ben, before Fight Club, before David Foster Wallace, before 9/11, before we all got married with kids. Before many of those dreams fell away.
Or maybe the dreams just changed. Now we have dreams for our kids. I’ve been reading articles that criticize “helicopter parents” and I totally get the critique; my 11-year-old friends and I would ride bikes together across campus and not think to come home until dark. Yet I rarely hear anyone defend over-parenting. And I sometimes think…when my other child and I write songs together, or specifically when I “give” him old melodies that I’d written and filed away, I sometimes think: maybe it takes more than one generation to make dreams come true. I know that’s not fair: you can’t impose your dreams on your kid because they could and should have their own. But I think sometimes you can augment their dreams with your own deferred dreams. Don’t @ me, bro.
I dream of a world where Dar can be useful. It’s hard, though. It’s like dreaming about a world that reverses global warming. I mean, you know, read some of these solutions. They all seem about as likely as a world that can use Dar. But we have to dream. And we have to listen to others’ dreams. I will always believe that we have to.
I just wish I knew how to listen to Dar’s.