For most parents, taking a child to a Saturday afternoon flick is little more than a way to kill time, of entertaining their little ones with minimal parental exertion, and even as a way to regain their sanity on a busy fun-filled weekend. For one Dad and his very special boy, however, a Saturday matinee became so much more than just a weekend excursion. Watching a simple children’s film together fulfilled fathers wish and gave him an afternoon he will never forget.
For proud dads, certain father-son activities are a rite-of-passage in the parent-child relationship. While my son was still swimming and kicking in his mother’s humungous abdomen, I dreamed of taking him to his first baseball game, first camping trip, and even his first movie. This was, of course, before April and I knew we would be blessed with a child who, despite having special-needs, would also bring abundant joy and blessings to our lives. He was more precious than either of us could have ever imagined a cherished gift from God.
Because of Shamus autism, most of these traditional father-son outings, which most parents take for granted, never became a reality. How I wished I could take my son on an exciting train excursion to a San Francisco Giants game, buy him a hot dog, Coke, and Giants cap, and together experience an incredible baseball game. My eyes, although sometimes blinded to his limitations, were certainly open enough to realize that such an activity would be disastrous, considering Shamus often disruptive autistic behavior.
Upon seeing promotions for the upcoming motion picture Curious George, however, I knew it was finally time to give Shamus a chance at a father-son outing. This film, I reasoned, was a kid’s movie. If he does misbehave, the other patrons, being parents of small children themselves, will certainly understand. Besides, the running time is less than ninety minutes certainly short enough to hold Shamus interest, I figured. Even if Shamus didn’t like the show, I certainly would, since that playful critter named George was a favorite storybook character from my own childhood.
Shamus, I asked. Do you want to see Curious George with Daddy? Yyyyyyyyes, he replied, in his unique, signature style, answering in a way that only my special Shamus can.
He is not ready, April said. Be flexible, and take him out of the theater if he misbehaves, she advised. Being the proud father, however, I was more optimistic, and knew it was time for Shamus to see a movie with Daddy – a film about a mischievous monkey named Curious George.
Driving Shamus to the cinema, my spirits were higher than the white puffy clouds floating so far above our heads. I would finally have my chance to do a real Dad activity with my precious son. After parking in a crowded downtown garage, we strolled to the theater hand-in-hand, passing bustling restaurants and traffic-jammed streets of roaring buses and blaring horns. After finally arriving at the box office, I shouted through the microphone, One adult and one child for Curious George, please. Words cannot describe my incredible pride as I traded my greenbacks for two theater tickets, which I immediately handed to my little boy to give to the doorman. We then wandered to the small auditorium where our chosen feature was showing.
After the lights dimmed and the projector started to flicker, Shamus sat and absorbed the movie. No, he didn’t make a fuss. He didn’t ask to leave, and he didn’t require my constant attention. None of his mother’s predictions materialized. What Shamus did was watch the naughty monkey named George play peek-a-boo with a yellow safari hat in the African jungle, paint a downtown studio a kaleidoscope of vibrant colors, float aimlessly over the Manhattan skyline clutching a rainbow of colorful carnival balloons, and generally make life very interesting for himself and The Man in the Yellow Hat – who eventually grew quite fond of George’s frolicsome behavior. The movie screen sparkled like a brilliant display of fireworks on a balmy summer night, and Shamus, although not following the storyline, was mesmerized by the symphony of color splashing on every corner of the silver screen, like a painter’s canvas coming to life. It was a pleasant and enjoyable time for both father and son, and an unforgettable experience. While enjoying the dazzling film, I realized that, sitting next to me was my own little monkey who, like Curious George, also likes to find mischief, always warming my heart in the process. I was ecstatic, sporting a huge grin from ear-to-ear, as my precious son and I watched our first movie together. It was a day I will never forget and will cherish in my heart forever.
A few days later, I asked Shamus which movie did you see with Daddy? He replied, in a way that only my little boy can, Monkey Movie. In Shamus eyes, it was a Monkey Movie. In my eyes, however, it was something so much more. It was a special gift from a special boy – a Saturday matinee his proud father will never forget.
* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism and special needs experience.