Last summer, not this past one, I went to Tanglewood in Massachusetts to see Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor for the first time, ever. It would also be the last because soon after he retired from the show.
It was a beautiful early summer evening and the grounds are up on a hillside with huge, wide old trees and a simply stunning view of the setting sun. The whole experience was one that I'd love to create.
And so, a deep regret formed that I had waited so long to see something so good. I felt as if I'd wasted too much time in my life and missed these sorts of moments where we are able to stop the merry-go-round that is life and breath.
Then I heard Keillor was coming to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, (I live down the road) with Robin and Linda Williams. The show was in the smallish Portsmouth Music Hall and we sat in the front row middle of the balcony.
It wasn't Prairie Home Companion, but it was nonetheless wonderful. Keillor came out and did a monologue that was funny and touching for about thirty minutes and then sang with the Williams and then sang with the audience (he had the lights turned up and asked the audience to face each other), and then an extended monologue and a few more songs. The show lasted for three hours and never once did Keillor do more than take a seat for a few moments.
His stamina and ability to create stories without notes is incredible. When I got home I looked him up on Wikipedia (not the fullest or absolute most trustworthy, but good despite it) and discovered that he considers himself to have Asperger's, which my son has.
For years now, I have told my son that Asperger's is a gift and challenge. It gives most who have it a gift, but it also gives numerous deficits. If you can find your gift and work through the deficits, you will have a good life. My son is struggling with the deficits side of the equation right now. His grades at his beloved college have got him into trouble and now he is fighting to remainthere. He loves his school, has wonderful friends, and is brilliant at his major, but he struggles with tests, has huge anxiety around speaking with professors who give vague guidance on projects, and has trouble understanding when he needs help and how to get the right help. He has a lovely woman helping him, but one professor seems to refuse to grade my son's work in a timely fashion (assignments linger from the beginning of the semester), which adds to my son's anxiety and makes it infinitely harder for him to follow through on his strategies for succeeding at college.
In short, he is a brilliant kid who has found his gift, but he is being tripped up by his deficits, a professor, and a college program where what you know and your abilities matter less than how you test. I suppose these are things we have all dealt with, but like many kids, he is not like most of us.
Seeing Garrison Keillor reminded me that it is possible to overcome long odds and do well with Asperger's and that my son is working very hard to succeed. But if he does not, another path will open.