I remember watching Dallas' final band concert; the first part was the concert and jazz band performances and the finale was the marching show held in another building....although they didn't march the formations, the band stood in a semi circle and played the show for one last time. The first half of the World War II themed show was conducted by the co-Drum Major while Dallas played the Tuba and the last half by Dallas. As I videoed his last performance as Drum Major, I had to stifle a laugh in order for it not to be heard by the camera's mic..... because, dressed in his tuxedo, Dallas marched out to take his position in front of the band - his head held high and his shoulders up and back....he looked wonderful...and then he did an about face towards the band and away from the audience, lifted his arms to conduct and.....there were his shirt-tails hanging out below his jacket....the moment was just so....Dallas.
After the band finished, Dallas the former drum major soon to be college freshman - led them out of the auditorium with a huge grin on his face; he led them in the snake around and around that auditorium, prolonging the moment of leaving for as long as possible. As I watched him and took in that grin...I knew he was ready for the next chapter of his life....
And, now, suddenly, its four years later and we just traveled up to Georgia to hear his Senior Recital......one of the requirements for a Bachelor of Music with a major in Education and a primary concentration in voice. As I sat in the auditorium this time, I fought a bit of nervousness for him.....I'd done a recital there at the same school 28 years ago...not a senior recital but a sophomore one (it was a two year school way back then)....and I felt the same butterflys all over again. I knew how hard it was to sing in front of your peers; to sing for those who have learned at the feet of the same professors; to be heard by those who have been taught to critique not only themselves but others......but I need not have worried. The stage fright that eventually stopped me from performing did not seem to affect my son.....he comes to life on the stage; he is in his element with the music that he hears all the time in his head....and can now vocalize and share with the world.
For those of you who knew Dallas as a child, it will be easy for you to understand just what an accomplishment this really is for him; diagnosed with ADD in Kindergarten, Dallas struggled through elementary and middle school, not really coming into a place of peace until his senior year of high school. Music sustained him through the trials of learning to cope with a disability that affected him socially and academically.
I knew he was a musician by the time he was four years old; one day, while he and his sister and a neighbor played "chase" through the house, I played classical music on the stereo.......the girls raced through the sliding glass doors never even pausing or acknowledging the music; however, when Dallas came through a minute or so later, he stopped in his tracks and began to conduct.....the song ended and off he went to continue the chase.
Dallas and his cousin Jamie rapping Jingle Bells cr. 1992
And I remember the first time he took ritalin, a drug we had fought to avoid from Kindergarten till 3rd grade; I kept him home that day to see how he reacted to the medication....and before bedtime prayers that night, I asked him how the meds had made him feel.....and I'll never forget the answer..."it stopped the noise and the music in my head, mommy". My heart didn't know whether to be glad or to be sad....as his mother, anything that helped him to get through his days was welcome....but as a musician...I heard the word "music" and thought, "but what about your creativity, your musicianship.....?".
In middle school, Dallas began to play the tuba...and he came off his meds...never to take them again. It hasn't all been easy, but the music that played in his head all the time was now louder then the noise.....and as he grew older, he picked up more instruments, became a singer/composer as well as a pianist and as a senior in high school, heard the calling to be a teacher....he found his passion and he found his life.
And now, he stands on the threshold of recieving his college degree.....and I want to go see every one of the teachers who told me he'd never graduate high school or that he'd be a juvenile delinquent or............and I want to go hug every teacher that saw the real boy inside the kid with ADD and encouraged him every step of the way to where he stands today.....!
I know with even more certainty today what I instinctively knew while raising him, that there was a reason that God had determined that my son should struggle through the things of childhood......Dallas will know the struggles another child with a disability faces and will meet that child in the place of his or her need; Dallas will understand the pain of never quite fitting in and will be a support for those who feel that same pain. And he will be able to tell that fearful, stressed out parent that there is hope; he can help those parents to help their child find their own passion....and that passion, whether it be a sport or music or drama or art, will help another child to prove a few teachers wrong and to make a parent very very proud!