I sit here watching Mr. Holland’s Opus. I think this is one of those movies that just touches you to the depths of your soul. It has true meaning instead of what a lot of these movies out there today seem to lack. I think if you’ve seen this movie it’s touched you in some way.
I haven’t really watched this movie in several years. As a matter of fact I don’t remember the last time I watched it. It’s a simple movie about a man named Glenn, or Mr. Holland, who had a dream and did teaching to bring in the income his family needed and then spent the next thirty years doing something he ultimately ended up loving and leaving a legacy behind.
What really struck me tonight though are the similarities between Iris, Glenn’s wife, and myself. They find out very early on, probably when Cole, their son, is around eighteen months old, that he is deaf. This is a striking blow for Glenn as he is a music teacher and has aspirations to one day be a conductor for his own symphony.
What you witness when Cole is around six or seven years old is that he is unable to communicate with his mom and dad. He wants something out of the cabinet but gets so frustrated and starts to throw things. This leads to a fight between Iris and Glenn and he yells at her and says, “Give him what he wants.” She yells back in return, “I don’t know what he wants. I don’t understand what he’s trying to tell me. Don’t you get it? You go off to school every day with all of your children who are normal. I can’t talk to my son! I don’t know what he wants or what he thinks or what he feels; I can’t tell him that I love him. I can’t tell him who I am! I want to talk to my son! I don’t care what it costs!” The scene continues on because she wants to send their son to a private school for the deaf and Glenn is unsure of the costs.
The part that really struck me tonight is how similar my life was to Iris’. Even though she is a fictional character, I can still relate. I guess that’s what makes a good movie truly good is that even if something is fictional it can seem real.
I felt that way for most of Mari’s life. The day Mari was officially diagnosed with autism, the dreams Keith and I had for her officially flew out the window into never never land and never to return. Our lives had to become filled with new hopes and/or dreams for our precious little one. And even those seemed to change all the time.
I think many parents take for granted sometimes how something like being able to communicate with your child can really mean. I told Mari I loved her all the time but she never understood what that meant. She knew Keith and I were the ones to take care of her and in her own special way I think she somewhat understood somehow that we were Mommy and Daddy but she never really understood what a mommy and daddy really were. She would say, “Let’s go potty,” but usually not for the reasons that most people think of. It was usually to get out of doing whatever she was doing in that moment. We would go into a store and I’d try to let her pick out a new DVD. The problem was that she’d only pick out movies she already owned as she was familiar with those. She didn’t want any new ones that she hadn’t seen before. If she had her way we’d probably own ten to twenty of the same title of each DVD. So you have a child that has a meltdown in the store because she can’t do what is the simple act of communicating. The sad part about it is when this happens in a store and you have a seven or eight year old child throwing what seems like a big temper tantrum, you have everyone looking around at you probably thinking, “Can’t you control your child?” Or “Man that child needs to learn some proper manners.” Or whatever else people might say when they see a child acting up in public. I know this happens because I’ve done it myself when I see a child really acting up badly. Before Mari, I never once thought to stop and think maybe there’s more to this child’s acting out than you can tell just by looking at the child.
I mean to look at Mari you’d never be able to tell she had a severe disability in the fact she had severe autism. She just looked like your normal, everyday child who was both beautiful and precious all wrapped up into one package.
Even though Iris was a fictional character, I relate to her so well. I sat here trying not to cry as it really touched me as I’m watching her yelling how she just wants to be able to communicate with her son and I have felt the same way so many times in Mari’s short lifetime.