Tim Wheeler skipped off the stage and came towards us with his hand outstretched and a huge beaming smile on his face. “Hi, I’m Tim,” he said cheerily.
The smile on Tim’s face was matched by the one on Arun’s face. Arun had never met Tim before but launched at him to give him a big hug. Arun recognised Tim from countless hours of watching him on You-tube, because Tim is the lead singer and guitarist from Arun’s favourite band: Ash.
When I had heard that Ash were coming to play the town we live in, it was too good a chance to miss. I contacted the band and told them what a huge fan Arun is and asked if he and some of his disabled friends could meet the band and perhaps attend the soundcheck. With their disabilities, there was no way that Arun or some of his friends could ever attend a concert. The band agreed almost immediately and a couple of months later, here we were with Arun meeting some of his heroes.
Tim went back on stage and they carried on with a cracking sound check. At the end of it, Tim asked us, “Is there any particular song that you’d to hear?”
We looked at Arun. He was a little awed by it all but after some prompting muttered, “Shining Light.”
So, there in front of us, for a spellbound audience of eight people, Ash kicked into a full on, rocking rendition of their Ivor Novello award winning hit “Shining Light.” We danced manically (little Meri especially) and afterwards the band came to say hello.
As Arun cradled happily in Tim Wheeler’s arms, I explained some of Arun’s connection with music, “Arun was born very prematurely and didn’t move for the first year of his life. It was through music that he started to move.”
Clare, my wife, added, “His music therapist laid him on a huge drum – he was tiny,” she indicated about a foot long, “and he started moving to the beat and vibrations of the drum, kicking his feet.”
“And slowly over the next year, through music we started to get him interacting with the world. Within a year, by the time he was two he’d developed a real love of a handful of bands and Ash are one of them.”
“What other bands does he like?” Tim asked
“He’s a big fan of the Foo Fighters and everything Dave Grohl.” I answered. Tim nodded, looking suitably impressed. I carried on, “It’s strange, he doesn’t necessarily like what we like. He has his own favourites and makes up his own mind but you guys have been really big for him since he was two. He recognises you all, you guys are a big part of his life.” I wasn’t exaggerating.
The band were great, Mark, the bassist got us a load of freebies, Rick, the drummer set about signing some stuff and they all posed for some photographs.
The following morning, I was driving Arun to school. About half-way through the journey he started bouncing in his car seat. “I saw Ash!” he said excitedly. “Ash played shining light.” His face broke out into a big smile, “I gave Tim Wheeler a big hug!”
It may not sound like much to you but for a child like Arun with cerebral palsy, autism and learning difficulties a set of statements like that is huge. He rarely talks about what has happened in the past and to say so much showed me what an impression the previous afternoon had made on him.
And, as a Dad, that made me feel great, because one of my jobs is to make my kids’ dreams come true. Arun is a shining light and he may not remember meeting his favourite band, but I always will.
P.S. Clare and I went to see the show in the evening and they were awesome.
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