Fifty Thousand Whitneys

Posted on February 7, 2011


Fifty Thousand Whitneys

You didn’t know who she was, or that she

Starred in a movie with Kevin Costner. Those

Were  facts only important to me.


For you, important experiences seemed to be those

You could repeat again and again and again.


When you heard Whitney Houston sing “I Will

Always Love You,” on the car radio, you unexpectedly

Announced, “I like that.”


So, on the way home, I bought

A cheap boom box

And the album called “The Bodyguard.”


I set it up in your room, beside your bed,

And turned it on.

You sat, transfixed,

Listening to Whitney’s soaring voice,

To the song’s fascinating key change

When her voice climbed ever higher.


You sat still, knees drawn to your chin,

Arms wrapped around your legs.

Your eyes were shut and

You were still as stone.


At the end of the song,

You pushed the replay button,

And I showed you

That you didn’t have to do that,

That you could set the Boom box to “repeat”

And it would just play the same song,

Over and over.


And that was the beginning of “I Will Always Love You,”

Always playing.

Day, night, rain, snow, sunshine, darkness,

The tune continued to play,

While you practiced the nuances of your life,

And while rearranging for the 1000th time

The baseball cards you collected with such fervor,

You listened to Whitney.


And you Listened to Whitney while

Reading a Star Trek Novel,

The same novel for the 50th time,

But listening to Whitney.


You fell asleep to Whitney

And she sang to you all night.

You woke with her

And she sang you awake.


For me, at first, she was an irritation

An annoying, unrelenting distraction

That was always there

To greet me when I came home

Ultimately, she simply became

Life’s background music.


I computed how many times you had played

The song from the first time you heard it

… multiple thousands,

You wore out the Boom Box,

Long before your craving for her voice

Stopped playing

In your mind.


You asked for another Boom Box.

I bought you one

And the music went on and on.


What was this strange fascination?

What were the words, the rhythms,

The tones that so soothed your mind?


Day after day I listened, along with you,

And I wondered, puzzled,

If there would ever be an end.


I bought my own earphones.

I could deaden Whitney with other

Voices, avoid her, shut her away briefly.


Often, when you left your room,

I sneaked in, and strangled Whitney,

Turned her off.


You were undaunted.

You returned to your room as always,

And the words came again…

Always ending with “I wish you love…

And I will always love you…..”


Then one day,

Whitney stopped.

And you never listened to her again.

By now, for me, her voice

Was an on and on and on drone,

A strange form of Tinnitus with a melody,

A ringing in my ears I knew I had to live with

As best I could.


Someone said,

“Perhaps this gives him peace…”

Could this be so?

You were more quiet

You were more calm.

You slept with ease

Whitney seemed to put you in a place

That only you could visit.


And, after a time, this seemed

One of the few clear ways

I knew my own self that

I could utter “I love you,”

Having seen, indeed, that Whitney

Could bring you peace.


Today, I hear the song,

And though you are nowhere near,

I think of you, and I smile

Because Whitney is now more than just a song.

She has formed a strange bridge,

One we both


Sat on,

and shared,


Listening and watching, I saw you

Calm and happy, rocking softly,

And for a time at least,

We achieved

A calm within the world

…. For both of us.

From: A Father’s Songs to His Autistic Son

Posted in: Autism