Friday, August 31, 2007

Arthur Miller's son

I suppose I am starting to get my brain into drama mode in preparation for my Open University Start Writing Plays course which begins in October. Anyway I was fascinated to read this piece about Arthur Miller in The Times.

I vaguely remember reading somewhere before, probably in an obituary, that Miller had a son with Down's Syndrome. I hadn't, however, realised the whole sad story. Although it was much more common to institutionalise disabled children back in the 1960's and earlier, Miller's disownment of his son and treatment of his wife, who wanted to keep the child at home, do seem rather callous.

His reasoning was that he didn't want his daughter, Rebecca, to grow up with a 'mongoloid' brother. Actually, being a sibling of a disabled child need not be all bad. Sure, some siblings have issues, as do any children. In my experience, however, many siblings grow up to be more mature and empathetic than average and a surprising number of them actually go on to work in caring professions.

But serious sibling issues are also going to be raised in Coming Down the Mountain, a new drama by Mark Haddon , which is due to air on Sunday on BBC1. Although I loved Haddon's novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, I don't think I will watch the film, it just might be too close to home for comfort right now.

It is good to read that in fact it was the husband of Rebecca Miller, Daniel Day-Lewis, who may well have been instrumental in Miller's acceptance of his disabled son at the end of his life and that the son in question, also called Daniel, appears to have grown up to have some success and independence in adulthood. One just wonders what he might have achieved with the support of a loving family in his early years.

Three notable things:

1. The scarf I am knitting is growing and growing...

2. Spotting a solitary and rather over-fed magpie sitting on the garden fence and not forgetting to say 'hello Mr Magpie'!

3. A neighbour doing some gardening for us in return for the pristine bike we gave his son whilst clearing out our garage.


john said...

Although my brother and sisters dont have problems my mother did. She had to wear a metal frame when I was younger, to support her neck. She had to take us to school wearing it and I do know that my brother punched someone for taking the mick. Thankfully my friends were not rude about it although they did want to know about it which I was fine with.

I think people accept things when they know more about it and I think mental health and physical problems should be discussed more openly in schools.

Stay at home dad said...

That's exactly what I thought when I read the story, Cathy. For those of us with one child, or those who can have no children what he did seems preposterous.

Anonymous said...

I have a story to tell one day about someone I once knew who was adamant he would not cope with a disabled child. It's a very personal story so I will have to pick the right moment but it makes me realise now that what I have is everything I need. How anyone can be so cruel is beyond me esp after having a child with autism. I have the book "Curious Incident" etc but haven't read it yet. Is it good? I must look out for the drama on Sunday of which I hadn't realised was written by the same person, thank you for pointing that out.

Crystal xx

Cathy said...

Crystal, yes I thought 'Curious Incident..' was good. I felt he'd captured Asperger's well. But of course my own experience is of the other end of the spectrum, so all I have to go on is the behaviour of a son of a friend!

Anne Brooke said...

Yes, I'm in 2 minds about the Haddon play too - though I do love his work ...


john said...

My nephew has aspergers and I can say that the book 'Curious Incident...', is a lot like it. An intresting read.

My nephew was bored one day and my sister was busy and getting fed up of him saying 'Im bored' all the time. So she said 'just go and count the rain drops or something'. She didn't know whether to laugh or cry when she saw him stood outside trying to count the rain. He takes everything seriously.

Unknown said...

Your post made me think about my of the children was Downsydrome. He lived at home until he hit puberty but then became too much for the family to cope. You have me wondering what has happened to him since - to all of them actually.