Did any of you watch the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie on CBS tonight? Front Of The Class.
It’s a movie about Brad Cohen, a man with Tourette Syndrome, and his drive to never let Tourette’s beat him. As most of you know, I have a daughter with Tourette’s and a son who will probably be diagnosed in January. We’ll be buying this movie and watching it together as a family. What an encouragement to never give up, to strive toward your goals, and to see Tourette’s for the things it can teach us!
I’m still pretty emotional from the movie. There were several scenes in which tears sprang to my eyes because I so related to the parents’ emotions or because Brad Cohen’s frustrations were so familiar to me. I see my children struggle with those same frustrations.
In one scene, the mother is talking to a psychiatrist, showing him the medical book in which she came across a definition of Tourette Syndrome and from which she pretty much diagnosed her son. She asks him what the cure is. He tells her there is no cure. Patricia Heaton is an excellent actress! The range of emotions that show on her face as she hears the doctor and then says, “But this is an old book. They probably have a cure by now.” And then she hears the doctor tell her again that there is no cure. And then the emotions flash across her face again as she says, “But they have to find a cure,” and her voice cracks and she starts to cry, “They have to find a cure.”
She never even said all the words you knew she was thinking. Patricia Heaton’s acting was spot-on. I knew just what thoughts would be going through the mother’s head, just what emotions were breaking her heart. No cure means my child will likely never get over this. That means my child will forever feel different. My child will always make noises when it’s not convenient or appropriate. My child will always feel out-of-control in some way. I will never be able to make this all better. My child will always have to explain to people that she cannot help it, that she cannot stop it.
When I realized Rachel had Tourette Syndrome, I grieved. I didn’t want anyone to make fun of her. I didn’t want her to have to worry about whether a man would love her, Tourette’s and all. I didn’t want her to be different in that way. I saw all of those thoughts and emotions sweep over Patricia Heaton’s face in that scene of the movie.
In another scene, Brad Cohen is talking to his father while they are grilling some meat in the back yard. Their relationship has been strained. Brad feels like his father is embarrassed by him and like he does not believe in him. So he confronts his dad about that, straight-on. The father admits — in a very frustrated way — that, yes, it has always bothered him that Brad couldn’t sit in a restaurant or go anywhere without people turning to look at him. He admits that it has always bothered him that he couldn’t fix it. He likes to fix things, and this was one thing he could not fix.
Oh, I understood that frustration as the father spoke. I have felt that exact frustration. I’m the mom. I like to kiss boo-boos and make them all better, but this is one boo-boo I cannot make all better.
A few years ago, Rachel was in a Christmas program at the school she was attending that year. She was wearing the cutest dog costume, and she was adorable. She stood on stage with her classmates and they sang and performed. Part of Rachel’s Tourette Syndrome is that she cannot sit still when she listens to music or sings. She bobs her whole body to the music. And when she is on stage performing, she really bobs and bounces to the music.
That night she was bobbing her head to the music and bending her whole upper body to the beat. Everyone thought she was so cute! Everyone was watching her and oohing and aahing and giggling because she was getting into the music. Of course, none of them knew anything about the Tourette’s. All the parents and grandparents in the audience just thought she was an excited little puppy dog really getting into the music.
I stood in the balcony, holding and rocking baby Griffin with tears streaming down my face because I knew Tourette Syndrome was making her bounce and bob and stand out from all the other children. I knew it was cute because she was in the first grade, but I knew it wouldn’t be so cute if she were in junior high. I knew that the audience was giggling and oohing and aahing because she was so adorably cute, but that at some point some kids might really laugh at her. So I cried. And every time I see Rachel on stage singing and bobbing and bouncing, I have this odd mixture of emotions because I know why she’s bobbing and bouncing, and I know she could not stop if she wanted to. And there is nothing, absolutely nothing, I can do to make it all better.
What an emotional movie! But what a movie of hope and inspiration! I love the balance of “this is the reality of Tourette Syndrome, and I cannot help it,” and “I will not let Tourette Syndrome win.” That’s the balance we strive for in our family.
This movie is such a gift to our family. Throughout the whole two hours, I was thinking, “Yes! . . . Exactly! . . . Yes! . . . That’s it!” The team of people who made this movie get it. They get Tourette’s. Brad Cohen is an exceptional man. He is truly an inspiration, a role model. God bless him for all he has done to bring attention to Tourette Syndrome and dispel ignorance by educating the general public about a condition that is greatly misunderstood.
(Oh, I hope my children’s teachers watched this movie tonight! I asked them all to.)