Sean and Duncan Get A Lesson From The One-Armed Drummer

by Bill Brenner on April 30, 2011

It started with Sean and Duncan doing what they usually do in the car — taunting each other. Sean told Duncan he has ADHD. Duncan didn’t like that.

Mood music:

The fact of the matter is that we don’t know what Duncan has yet. He’s too young for an accurate diagnosis. Like everyone else, he has his challenges to overcome, and we’re working with him on it. Clearly, one of my weekend tasks is to take Sean aside and explain the role he needs to play. Task 1: Stop telling Duncan he has ADHD, and stop trying to set him off.

But I started the lesson right there in the car.

“You boys have heard about how I have Obsessive-compulsive Disorder, right?” I ask.

“Yeah,” they say in unison, their tone making it clear they’ve never really understood what OCD is other than an acronym that gets tossed around the Brenner home daily.

So I explain the basics: The mind that spins out of control with worry. The chest that tightens with anxiety. The fear and addictive behavior that goes with it, and the fact that I managed to get the right treatment and am doing well now.

I tell them: “We all have our struggles. That’s mine. Duncan’s is that he has trouble focusing and channeling his emotions. And Sean, one of yours is the inability to put down one of your Star Wars Lego ships before you’ve fixed a piece that came undone. You may not have OCD like me, but that kind of obsession is definitely an OCD trait.”

I tell them there’s nothing wrong with us for having these struggles. It doesn’t make us freaks. It doesn’t make us animals. It simply makes us human.

“True, I do have an issue with that (the Legos),” Sean says.

I drive home the point that we don’t have to let these struggles hold us back. Hell, I’ve managed to enjoy a successful career in journalism despite my struggles. And, I tell them, it’s the same with people who have other ailments and disabilities.

Then a Def Leppard song comes on the radio.

I remember that the drummer, Rick Allen, lost an arm in a car wreck many years ago. That didn’t stop him from drumming. He simply taught himself to use his foot to compensate for what he could no longer do with the second arm.

The kids have been getting into my music of late, so this gives me a good opportunity to make a nice teachable moment out of this.

I call up the Def Leppard albums in my iPod and let it play for the rest of the ride.

They like what they hear. Especially the drumming.

I spring the shocking truth on them: The drummer only has one arm.

That doesn’t stop him from being a good drummer.

The kids are more subdued for the rest of the ride, in awe of what they’ve just learned.

This won’t stop them from taunting each other. It won’t stop Sean from tossing acronyms around like sticks and stones.

But it’s certainly going to make them think a lot harder about who we all are and what we’re capable of, regardless of the challenges that dog us.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

John December 15, 2011 at 8:01 am

Thank you, Bill. I enjoyed the story.

I’ve seen and heard this band many times over the years and have been hugely impressed at Mr. Allen’s courage and determination.

Beyond that, though, his efforts would have come to naught if he hadn’t had the support and encouragement of his band mates (and I’d imagine, other friends and family members) who saw only his overwhelming talent, focused on his positive attributes and ultimately understood the benefits to be gained by making accommodations for his new playing style.

That’s as much of a lesson for Sean and Duncan and I think yours was a great way to begin to make that impression on them!

Best of luck.


billbrenner1970 December 15, 2011 at 8:07 am

John, you are so, so right. That the guys in the band stuck by him when they could have easily gotten another drummer speaks volumes about the heart and balls of their story.

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