For a long time, I haven't been able to listen to "I Have A Dream" by ABBA.
Eleven years ago, I was helping a friend to paint her new house. Alex was staying with his grandparents, but we took what we expected to be an hour break to take him to an appointment at CHEO, to meet with a doctor to discuss how to deal with his speech delay.
What I expected to be a fifteen minute initial consultation turned out to actually be a two and a half hour evaluation where the doctor told me that my child had autism and it was critical that I find treatment as soon as possible but they couldn't tell me which treatments might be helpful and couldn't recommend any providers and not to count on the publicly funded system because it would be years before Alex would be seen.
Lot of big shocks. After the evaluation, I got back in my car to finish house-painting and as I was driving across the city, ABBA's "I Have A Dream" began to play.
I had always loved that song because I also believed that imagination and dreams could pull anyone through the worst life had to offer. But that day, I couldn't listen to the lyrics without feeling like they were all big, ugly lies. What good is a "fantasy to help me through reality" when being faced with such a horrible reality? What fantasy could possibly help? The fantasy that my son might not need significant help throughout his life?
It probably didn't help that we had discovered I was pregnant only a few days before, so I was probably also deal with a hormone surge. But for the first time in my life, I wasn't ready to step up to deal with a crisis. I felt as if the universe had yanked the bedrock out from under my feet and I was free-falling with no idea of where or when (or even if) I would land.
For a long time, every time I heard that song, I was transported back to those ugly feelings of despair. So I took it off my playlist and tried to avoid the classic pop stations.
But in the last year, Alex has discovered a new love of ABBA, including "I Have A Dream." Slowly, the song's memories have been replaced.
Nothing will ever change the shock and despair I felt that day. I was completely unprepared and felt pushed aside by the professionals who should have helped me. But I've reclaimed a little piece of my life before that day. And for now, I'll take that and enjoy having a dream again.