Friday, June 17, 2005

Something about Luke (my son)

My older son Luke is autistic. In perhaps my most popular post ever, I wrote about him here. (Sadly I lost all the comments when I changed providers.)

Luke plays the piano and violin. (He made all-state on the violin this year--and he is better on piano.)

We were at church Wednesday, and Luke was sitting at the piano ready to play some hymns before prayer. First I asked Luke to choose one, which he did. Then I asked if anyone had a request.

A lady began flipping through her hymnal. "Is Like a River Glorious in here?" she asked. Almost before she finished her question, Luke calmly announced, "Number 498."

I've seen him do it before, but it always amazes me. In fact, he can do it for two different hymnals, the one we used at our previous church and the one at our current church. He can do it both ways: name→number and number→name. And he can tell you the key, which often is different for the many hymns that appear (at different places) in both hymnals.

I am sure Luke has a photographic memory. The first time I realized this, we were sitting in the café at a Barnes and Noble in Virginia Beach. Luke was about seven. He wasn't in a great mood, so I wanted to do something that I knew he liked. There is an old, beautiful, brick road from Yorktown to Jamestown called the Colonial Parkway. Luke loved driving on that road, but we hadn't done it for at least a year, probably closer to two. I asked him if he wanted to go, and he giggled and said yes.

The parkway has quite a few tunnels. By tunnels, I include underpasses, because over the years highways and roads have gone over the parkway so that it could be preserved. Anyway, Luke did not distinguish, at that time, between a tunnel and an underpass.

I don't know why, but I decided to ask Luke how many tunnels were on the parkway. He looked out the window and began counting.

"One, two, three," (pause) "four, five, six," (longer pause) "seven" (short pause) "eight, nine, ten", (long pause), "eleven", (very long pause) "twelve."

I knew he was driving the route in his mind, counting tunnels, and the length of the pause was proportional to the distance between one tunnel and the next.

I had to see this.

We drove to Yorktown and got on the Parkway. In no time we went under three adjacent underpasses and, after just a bit, three more.

Just like he said.

And so it went, with everything matching his count and pauses. We came upon the eleventh tunnel just past Williamsburg, not far beyond the halfway point of the road, which has a total length of twenty-three miles.

On and on we drove. I remembered that final, really long pause. Still it seemed to take forever.

Just as we were running out of road (it ends at a ferry station where you can cross the James River), where we had to turn off into Jamestown, we finally came upon number twelve.

Luke is so cool.

I’m working from my highly flawed memory, so if you live in Yorktown don’t put me to the test. I could ask Luke, but he is practicing piano. The most dramatic part, the long distance until the last tunnel, on that detail I am certain.

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