Ad Astra: To the Stars

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The moon one beautiful Jimei night.

“THE WORDS THAT NEVER GET SPOKEN to a loved one will remain inside of you always. They become part of your inner dialog, emerging periodically to your consciousness like buried treasure, whenever you think of that person who is no longer in your life.” 

These lines from  moviejoltz’s  review of Ad Astra made me want to watch the movie, and I did. When I first heard of this Brad Pitt movie, I was not keen on watching it because I am not a Brad Pitt fan.  But after watching this movie, I can honestly say I like how Brad Pitt played his character, Roy McBride, so well that I forgot him as an actor and just saw Roy the cold and lonely astronaut.

All throughout the movie, the character’s isolation, loneliness is apparent even in his smile, in his politeness and composure, and that isolation/loneliness has been brought on by the uncertainty of the fate of his father who had left earth and never came back.

There are three themes that made me like this movie: one-sided devotion, stubborn pursuit of a  dream, and attitudes toward failure and success.

How many of us, in our youth, have experienced being devoted to somebody — spending day and night thinking about that person, wondering what they were doing that very minute and if they were thinking about us too. Then we find out that that somebody has been living their life and has not had time to think about us. Roy, in his 40’s, had not been able to fully live his life as the pain of losing his father in his youth had somehow made him build an emotional fortress around himself making him stoic in the face of many challenges. Then when he finally saw his father again, he realized how all these years when he thought his father was dead without being able to say goodbye, his father was alive and consumed by his dream of finding intelligent life in another planet, with not much room in his mind for his only child. Yet Roy as a grown man, only remembered his father’s words, “I love you, son” and told his father, “I still love you, dad.”‘ He was a young man when his father left him, and his heart remained a young man when he saw his father again, still filled with love for the father who had abandoned him.

Clifford McBride’s stubbornness in pursuing his dream of finding intelligent life in another planet even though it was already clear that there was none, is no different from the many different people’s insistence on finding something that is not there or achieving something that is obviously unachievable. Where some people easily give up on their dreams, others, for whatever reason, will fight to the end achieving that dream even if it meant leaving everything else that used to mean something to them — even family. And Clifford McBride did just that, in the end he lost everything but the love of his son, which would have been enough but sadly, it wasn’t for him.

One of my favorite scenes in the movie is the conversation between Roy and his father when his father finally admitted to Roy that he had failed in finding intelligent life in Neptune, to which Roy answered: “You didn’t. We’re all we’ve got.” And this shows a very clear contrast in the way the two men viewed failure and success. The father viewed “not finding” a failure. He could not see that the proof that there’s none is a form of success. But his son did. (If you’ve ever read my Not About Me page, this is exactly how I view my “failures” in life.)

After watching this movie I said to my husband, this story would still be good if it were set on earth, and not in space. Instead of flying from earth to the moon, from the moon to Mars, then Neptune, Roy could have traveled from California to Maryland, or from Kansas to Uganda. But then the title wouldn’t be AD ASTRA which is Latin for “To the stars,” from the expression “Ad astra per aspera” (literally, to the stars through difficulties.) Roy literally went to the stars through numerous difficulties which he all amazingly overcame. But then again, because it is set in outer space which involves a lot of science stuff, I simply focused on the drama part of the story and was not concerned about whether the science of it was right or wrong.

This is the first Brad Pitt movie that I have watched and truly liked, and one I don’t mind watching again.

On Autism and Feeling Left Out

Eli at Panglao, Bohol

Today I read an article written by a mom who says that as a parent of a child with autism, she feels isolated. And one parent commented that she feels the same, that nobody invites her son to anything, and so she never gets invited to anything either.

I used to feel hurt am that nobody invites Eli to birthday parties. But after a year, I DECIDED not to let it bother me. For one, I cannot stand the noise of kids for so long. Eli cannot stand the sound of screaming or crying children either. He is more comfortable around older children or adults. However I do throw a birthday party for him and for the last three years, I had McDonald’s in my city organize it, the first year at their store and the last two years at his special education school. His classmates had so much fun especially when the mascot came out. This year’s was the noisiest party so far , but Eli was fine with it because he already knows his classmates and teachers, and the mascot no longer scares him. I had a headache from all the noise, but seeing Eli so calm amid the raucous, and his classmates, most of whom are minimally verbal, participating in the games and so excited to see the mascot, was fulfilling.

For the last three years, I always gave a few party bags from Eli’s party to the kids with special needs at the public school special needs center, and they were always happy to get stuff from McD. Their smiles and thank-you’s were enough to make me happy.

I understand some parents’ feelings of isolation, but I guess what I want to say is, we don’t have to feel this way. We don’t have to feel sorry for ourselves because we can do something about this. Instead of waiting for people to reach out to us, we can take the initiative. And we don’t have to reach out to those who cannot accept our children’s condition, we really do not need them in our lives. There are people out there who not only understand and accept our autistic children for who and what they are but also appreciate them for their specialness and our struggles at raising such children.

It is very difficult for Eli to have friends save for his two cousins and my cousins’ son and daughter. Neurotypical kids will always see him as strange, and I don’t blame them. They are children. I have witnessed several times how Eli tried to go near such children, and how they looked at him and moved away from him. It hurt me, but I’m almost sure it disappointed him more. But this is reality. In time he will learn what everyone of us should learn, not everyone can be a friend. Not everyone can be accepting of who we are, but there are those who do care, and they are the ones that matter. There is no need to be friends with people who are embarrassed by us. They are not worth our time or energy. Remember there ARE people who will be very grateful for our time and attention. We should give it to them instead.

Life is not all roses, even for neurotypical people. We can only try to live it the best we can for ourselves and more importantly, for our children on the spectrum.