It was one of those nights.While the family slept, I decided to take advantage of the silence and get some work done.In the midst of my efforts, I turned on the television and stumbled across a movie from the 1995:Mr. Holland’s Opus.
Have you seen it?It’s always interesting to watch something a second time – especially when your personal circumstances have changed since your initial viewing.You often pick up on things that may have once gone right over your head.
Especially if you’re seeing something a second time for the first time as a parent of a child with special needs.
If you’re not familiar with the film, it featured Richard Dreyfuss playing the role of a newly married musician with a dream of being a great American composer. He wants to get off the road and concentrate on composition, so he takes a job as a high school music teacher.
As often happens, his job begins taking up more of his time than he wants to give. He becomes frustrated.His grand plan is being ruined!Then his wife gets pregnant and the pressures really start to mount.
Time and time again, he tries to keep his dream alive, but the job and his family demand all of him and the dream appears to be slipping away.
So, like many fathers, he begins to fantasize that he’ll be able to see the fulfillment of his dashed dreams in the life if his growing child.He even names the son after his favorite musician - just to be sure there’s no mistake what his life will hold.
Again, things don’t work for the beleaguered and despairing musician.His son is deaf.His heart breaks yet again – not because his son will never hear, but because he’ll never get to hear his son play the music he wanted him to one day compose.
You could never find a statistic, but I suspect it’s a common occurrence for parents to be disappointed that their children never did what they wanted them to do.Most parents can carry these dreams and hopes for years -- maybe even through their children’s high school careers.
But those of us who have been given a diagnosis of a disability have that dream ended abruptly.
No soft landing, just a shovel full of reality whether or not you want it and regardless of whether or not you’re ready for it.
At that moment, we’re forced to process a lifetime of emotion.We have choices to make - and we don’t always make the right ones. Surprised?You shouldn’t be.
In the film, Mr. Holland didn’t deal with it well either. The look of disappointment is on his face and it doesn’t take long for his child to understand.
It takes Richard Dreyfuss’ character a long time to finally decide what’s really most important – in fact, almost too long to recover the relationship with his own son.
At the end of the movie, we find him sitting in his classroom, sulking over the fact that the school has chosen to cut the music program.He’s out of a job.He’s once again heartbroken and thinks that the past thirty years was a waste and that he’s made no contribution at all to the world.
In other words, a life wasted in self deception.
It’s at this moment he finally accepts the fact that his dreams didn’t come true. He’ll never become the great American composer.But he realizes that his contribution to the world may not have been in the form of music – but rather, in the time spent investing in the lives of other people.
Many of us are somewhere in the middle.We’re neither young and full of youthful dreams or reflective of how we’ve spent our long life.But maybe some of you are struggling to find the purpose of the everyday monotony or the litany of challenges that pile up like laundry in any given day or week.
Look around you. Look to those who love and count on you -- some for their very existence.
The small things you do now will make a big difference in the long run -even if you can’t see it today.
Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.
- John Lennon (1940 - 1980), "Beautiful Boy"