How do you cope?
It's a question I've been asked a few times, and I find it a strange one really. I know no different. I have no other children to compare The Boy to. This is parenting to me. And life really isn't that difficult. I've said it before, there are plenty of people worse off than us. There's real comfort in relativity. And relatively, we're doing just fine.
I remember the last time I asked someone the same question: how do you cope? I was nineteen years of age. At the age of 11 I won a scholarship to go to a private boy's school. I spent the next seven years there, and hated every minute of it. I just didn't belong. I couldn't wait to leave.
And then less than one year later, I found myself returning. The Old Boy's Dinner. An event for ex-pupils. I went because I managed to cadge a free ticket. And if I'm honest, I went because I wanted to see if I finally fitted in. I didn't. And at the end of the night as everyone left it was just me and Brian, the caretaker. My friend.
I'd always got on well with Brian. He ripped the filter off Benson and Hedges cigarettes and he smelt of Old Spice. Brian got a rough ride at the school. His faded ink tattoos, Farah trousers and military haircut all pointed to a different education. A different upbringing. But he reminded me of my dad. And I felt more at home talking to him than I did to anyone else there. That night we broke into the bar that had been locked up and nicked a bottle of brandy. And we sat in the school hall and we chatted. And as I coughed and spluttered through each cigarette he forced down me, temporarily getting relief from the brandy just before it began to burn the back of my throat, I felt like a proper man for the first time.
And that's when I asked him the question. "How do you cope?", I said, "when all these kids are looking down their noses at you. Don't you get pissed off with it all? How do you cope?".
And this is what Brian told me.
"See this hall", he said, as we both looked round. It was a beautiful building. Ornate. Grand. I nodded. "Well, on a Sunday, when the school is completely empty, and no-one else is around, I come in here. I take my music tape and I put it on backstage. I turn it up as loud as it will go. Then I step down from the stage and into the middle of the hall. And then I ... I conduct an orchestra."
And writing down those words now sends the same shivers down my spine as they did when I heard them for the first time twenty two years ago.
So whenever anyone asks me the question, "how do you cope?", the answer's easy.
In my mind, I conduct an orchestra.
This blog is about bringing up The Boy. He's 12 years old and autistic. It's written by The Dad. It's my words, my view. Other people will think differently and have different opinions. Good.