My son, Jordan, is absolutely bursting with happiness today over his new friend, James. That is my motivating factor in taking to Blogger this afternoon, but I'll get back to that in a bit.
Having Asperger's Sydrome accompanied by sensory processing disorder and occasional ticking, Jordan has overcome his share of challenges. From dealing with bullies in grade and middle school, having to take daily medication, to adjusting to life and classes as a high school freshman, he's seen it all. I thank God every day that my son is happy and physically healthy, yet at times I feel incredibly frustrated with his struggles, not to mention ashamed when I lose my patience and yell. This happens particularly when I've bent over backwards to accommodate his needs (think clean the washing machine out with a cycle or vinegar and baking soda to remove odors and then wash his clothing in unscented detergent only to be told he can still smell it, can't stand the feel, or now something is too "small") just to learn that what worked yesterday does absolutely nothing today. I yell. He yells. I yell some more. Rinse and repeat.
So when something happens that makes him feel WONDERFUL about himself I am simply elated. That's where today finds me.
In September of 2011 you may remember we took Jordan to the "American Idols Live" tour to get up close and personal with his favorite, James Durbin. James also has Asperger's and Tourettes Syndrome, not to mention one of the most amazing voices I have ever heard. This was a guy my son could relate to. 110%! When he tossed his bandana into the crowd Jordan was the lucky recipient. My daughters and I stood there and wept openly. Such a tiny act meant the world to Jordan. I'm sure there were several folks around us who were quite confused with our open display of sappy emotion during a song like Muse's "Uprising," but they couldn't feel Jordan's heart like we did and frankly we didn't care. (For the record "Uprising" was one of my favorite Idol covers done by James, along with "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" and "You've go Another Thing Comin'")
After the show we waited in the pouring rain in hopes of Jordan meeting James, only to be told that the AI contestants wouldn't be signing that night. Those of you who know me know my main mantras in life are "It is what it is," and "Everything happens for a reason." I have instilled these solidly in my children. So while he couldn't talk to James, Jordan floated off into the night with his new bandana on his wrist. He slept with it for weeks after...
Fast forward a little over two years. The bandana is still a prized possession and James Durbin's music is still a regular staple on our playlist, particularly his newly released, and already beloved, "Parachute." If you haven't already give it a listen! Better yet call your local radio station and request it! Even better yet - get the new CD out April 8th!
It was a few days before Christmas and my shopping had long been complete when I got a notification that James would be appearing at a venue just 45 minutes from us! There was no question ... this was a gift from Santa himself. Jordan had been waiting for years to see James and in just a month he could. Without a second thought I pulled out my credit card and bought the tickets, including the meet and greet option.
The show was wonderful and Jordan was so absorbed in the music he didn't have any issues with crowd or noise. Afterward as he waited he kept saying he was nervous. Jame's tour manager, Noah, had been talking to us and told Jordan that James was more excited to meet him than he was to meet James. That made my son more comfortable but he was still nervous.
Jordan approached the table, shaking slightly, and handed him the bandana. James smiled, gave him a thumbs up. After a few minutes of general conversation the ice was broken, reservations were gone, and conversation flowed. About life and, as Jordan puts it, "stuff." I wish you could have seen it.
It's what I loved the most. After an incredibly short time James was no longer a larger than life rock star. He was just another guy who faces the same struggles that Jordan does but who has the wisdom from being a little bit older and, for lack of a better word, was COOL. They got each other. When you have a condition such as theirs the only people who truly understand are those in the same boat. You have to live it. James went so far as to even escort Jordan to the front of the club (Under 21's had to go up the stairs through the second floor and down the stairs as to avoid the bar area) because by that point everyone was pretty much gone.
When I was talking to him I thanked James and mentioned if there's one thing I was sure of it's that his purpose here is not only about the music but more importantly about empowering others like him, and educating those who aren't. I'm a BIG believer in the "paying it forward" philosophy. Jordan is taking the inspiration James has given him and wants to in turn help other kids as he gets older. He's off to a good start. By the end of last year in middle school he had all the younger guys in the autistic support room looking up to him. He was like their leader and he'd joke with them, stand up for them, and help them with what they needed. Melissa Hoebee, the autistic support teacher, tells me they still talk and about and miss Jordan and she's asked if he can come back to visit one day. Pretty neat stuff.
Jordan is striving to be like James. Maybe not as a musician (although Jordan has a great voice) but to help others like him realize the sky is the limit for their potential ... autism be damned! I couldn't be more proud of the young man he's becoming. He has a fascination for tornados (loves Reed Timmer, extreme storm chaser) and has aspirations of being a storm chaser one day, or at the very least getting to hunt down one storm in his life. He may settle for being an architect (he's good with design) or perhaps even a motivational speaker, or counselor.
So much of his confidence has come from James who has made Jordan realize it's all there right inside of him. In his heart. In his mind. In his soul. I think last night is the beginning of a beautiful friendship for Jordan and James. As we were driving home Jordan kept saying "I have never been so happy in my life. Like EVER."
That my friends didn't just come from meeting an idol, it came from making a connection with a mentor and kindred spirit. For that we'll always be grateful.