Other People's Words

Interview with the Murray family of the film Dad’s in Heaven with Nixon

Posted in Uncategorized by Tera on October 15, 2010

This is a transcript of Autism Women’s Network’s interview with Tom Murray, who made the documentary Dad’s in Heaven with Nixon about his autistic brother, Christopher. Also being interviewed are his sister Helen and their mother Janice.


Sharon daVanport: Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to AWN radio. We are the Autism Woemn’s Network on Blogtalk. I am your host, Sharon daVanport, and today is Saturday, September 25, 2010. Joining me, as always, is co-host Tricia Kenney.Kenney. Hello, Tricia.

Tricia Kenney: Hi, Sharon. How are you today?

Sharon daVanport: I’m doing actually well. How are you?

Tricia Kenney: Doing pretty well.

Sharon daVanport: Are you? Is it going to be a good weekend for you?

Tricia Kenney: I think so. We have a new road today, and it’s nice out and pleasant and kind of a crisp kind of day. So it’s a good day today.

Sharon daVanport: You have a new what?

Tricia Kenney: Oh, a new road on our street. [Chuckles]

Sharon daVanport: Oh, that’s right! I remember you calling me the other day and saying: “Okay, I have no road, Sharon.” So tell everyone what’s going on. As you looked outside your window, you had no idea bulldozers had been tearing up your road. Funny—you didn’t hear it. That’s some really good insulation in your home, Tricia.


Tricia Kenney: Yeah, yeah. I had no idea what was going on. I know they had said no parking on the street from 8:00-4:00 or something, and I opened the door to check my mail and our road was gone. [Chuckles]

Sharon daVanport: Oh, wow. Oh, my goodness. Well, I wanted to quickly let everyone know, before we get started and bring on our guest, which is the Murray family. We’re so excited to have the Murray family with us from the autism documentary that has been running on Showtime television for quite a long time, called Dad’s in Heaven with Nixon. We’ll be bringing them on in just a few minutes, but we did have a couple of announcements.

The first one is, we wanted to tell everyone about the exciting new package from LifePROTEKT. Can you tell us a little bit about that, Trish? I know you’ve just recently talked to Lou, so you know a little bit more about that.

Tricia Kenney: Right, right. Well, technology is constantly moving forward, and the same goes for the technology used in the GPS devices that LifePROTEKT uses. What they’re doing, they’re getting all new items in, all new stock. Everything that’s there is being updated and they’re going to be coming out with stuff that has even better reception, lasts longer, all of these things that are so essential to the purpose of those items. So what we’re going to do is, we’re going to wait until the end of next month to do our drawing. That way, you’ll be getting the new itesm. Otherwise the items you would be getting now would be traded out a month from now, anyway.

Sharon daVanport: Right.

Tricia Kenney: We’re going to just go ahead and put it off until next month. That way, you’ll be getting that new technology that’s coming, and these products which are already great are going to be even beter. So we’re excited.

Sharon daVanport: And by the time they would get it anyway, in a couple weeks, they’d turn right back around and have the new ones shipped to them anyway. So they would have maybe the new one for just a week…The original one, and then they’d be trading it out for the upgrade anyway within a week. So it’s just easier to wait until next month to go ahead and do our drawing, nd as always, what is the e-mail that everyone e-mails their story into for the contest, for the drawing for the GPS device.

Tricia Kenney: info AT autismwomensnetwork DOT org Just tell us your story and why you need one. We’ll put you in the drawing.

Sharon daVanport: And remember, for anyone who’s listening for the first time, the GPS technology on why you need one—we’re talking about for the disabilities community. I don’t mean to be a Wisenheimer or anything and saying you want to track somebody, you’re stalking somebody.


We’re talking GPS technology…we truly are. Now, it’s not like we haven’t had a few of those e-mails. I’m being serious here, halfway. We’re getting some e-mails about: “I need this device to be tracking somebody.” We’re not talking about tracking soembody out there, people. We’re talking about truly a life-saving technology that’s being used in the disability community for many people with Alzheimer’s, autism, head injuries. They really benefit a lot, these families, from this technology—to be able to have their loved one protected in case they wander.

Tricia Kenney: Exactly. So send us your story, and like I said, we’ll put you in the drawing.

Sharon daVanport: That’s right. And, lastly, I just wanted to let everyone know, make my apologiies, that I am getting your e-mails. I’m just about a week and a half behind on e-mails. This has been the craziest month ever. I’m not really at home that much, starting school. My son, a lot of people know, as well as myself being on the spectrum, my son is. He has also multiple disabilities, so getting school started every year is quite a handful for all of us, and getting into a routine.

So this month, I’m just not home and I need to make my apologies for the Pepsi contest, as well. I just have not been able to devote a lot of time to that. We’re slipping in the ranks; I’m sorry, people, but you have to be there every day promoting this. Pepsi is unique in the way with their contest that they go by daily votes. If I’m not there promoting it every day, it’s really hard to get the word out.

So to everyone who’s been voting every day, I’m sorry if you’re looking at the ranks and panicking. I know I’ve gotten some e-mails from some of you that are like: “What happened?! We’re losing ten points here and there!” I’m really sorry; I’m just not available right now. [Chuckles] It’s been really hard, so we’ll try to stay in the top 100 so we can get carried over. We’re trying really hard, but I just can’t promise. I’m going to have to be honest with everyone. I can’t promise that I can do that this month. September’s really been a rough month, and I just want to put that out there and be very honest with everyone. So I feel better now that I’ve said that, Tricia. I don’t feel so guilty—like I’ve done something wrong.


Tricia Kenney: It’ll be fine. Like you said, as long as we stay in the top 100 we’ll be fine, and we’ll get carried over next month and try again.

Sharon daVanport: All right. And these workshops that we’re promoting our project for through the Pepsi contest, it’s something we’ve also found out from Pepsi. They sent us an e-mail saying: “This is getting carried over to next year.” So there’s going to be a lot of opportunities for different organizations and communities to try to do a Pepsi grant. We’ll just keep moving forward and looking at new goals.

So I think it’s time to bring on the Murray family. I’m so excited; I want everyone to know that we’ve got…I see that Tom Murray has called in, too, so he’s on the switchboard. And we’re going to have Helen and their mother, Janice, Mrs. Murray, as well. Okay—get everybody over here on. Hello, Helen?

Helen Murray: I’m here.

Sharon daVanport: Tom? Are you there, as well? Hi. [Chuckles]

Tom Murray: How you doing? How are you?

Sharon daVanport: Doing really well, thank you.

Helen Murray: Should I have Mom pick up now?

Tricia Kenney: Oh, no, that would be fine.

Helen Murray: Okay, great.

Sharon daVanport: This is really nice, to be able to have this multi-extension, put people on. [Chuckles] [unknown] on the switchboard.

Tricia Kenney: Yeah. Yeah, definitely.

Sharon daVanport: So, Tom, I know that you were calling in immediately following I believe it was a sporting event for one of your kiddos?

Tom Murray: Yeah. My youngest son, who turned 13 yesterday, had a flag football game today [unknown] early—9:00 this morning. So I went and watched that, and then brought him back. He’s in the other room now, watching college football with his buddy and his brothers. [Unknown] [Chuckles]

Sharon daVanport: There you go. Was it a good game?

Tom Murray: It was a good game. They won, and he actually caught a pass for a touchdown, so it was very exciting.

Tricia Kenney: Nice.

Sharon daVanport: Oh, wow! And you got to see it [on air?]. So congratulations! Aweomme.

Tom Murray: Yeah, absolutely.

Sharon daVanport: All right. Are you with us still, Helen?

Helen Murray: Yes. And Mom’s on, as well.

Sharon daVanport: Oh. Hi, Mrs. Murray. Thank you for joining us. My name is Sharon. So glad you could join us today as well.

Janice Murray: Me, too.

Sharon daVanport: And Tricia is with us. She’s co-host.

Tricia Kenney: Hi there. Nice to meet you.

Tom Murray: Hi, Mom.

Janice Murray: Hi, dear.

Sharon daVanport: Okay. Well, I guess we need to start at the beginning, and that would be with you, Tom. You’re the one who actually put the documentary together. You directed, produced. And I just have to say the tagline before you get started telling our listeners how the thought of bringing the documentary together and how it took a life of its own as it was being developed and filmed. But you said the tagline for it, and I love the way the film ends, where it says: “It’s for Mom, who never stopped believing.” And I think I would like you to start there.

Tom Murray: Well, I’d had a film in my head for probably 15 years that I wanted to make, about Mom and Christopher’s journey. The reason that Christopher is where he is today is really due almost completely to Mom. There was a campaign that we all were a part of, but she was really the one that was the driving force behind it all.

I’d always wanted to do a film about the dynamic between my mother and my brother, and how he was really rescued by her from a very dark place, way back in the Dark Ages of the old days, before autism was even on the map. I always wanted to do that film. I could never really get going on what would be in that film, and I think the reason is because I didn’t want to go near my father’s story. It was way too raw for me to even touch that. I thought: “Well, I’ll just tell Christopher’s story and Mom’s story and leave Dad out of this.” And then, of course, as you saw in the film, that would’ve been doing it a great injustice—not only to Mom and Christopher, but also to our father, who still is a vital part of Chris’s life to this very day, even though he’s been dead for over 30 years.

And so to make a very, very long story as short as possible because we don’t have all day, I uncovered some film that I always knew that I had had in my possession after my dad died. [It] was film of him as a little boy, and of his father and mother and of his brother and five sisters, all growing up in Brooklyn, New York—Brooklyn and Southampton, back in the late ’20a and early ’30s. And I uncovered this in March of 2008. I’d had this film in my head for maybe 15 years before that. I sent it out to get transferred to a digital medium and I got it back about a week later, and spent literally a whole evening, a whole night just going through this film and logging every frame of it.

By the time the sun rose the next morning, I knew that I had a different film. It wasn’t going to be called A Light in His Eyes, which is the idea that I had for the film about Mom and Christopher. I didn’t know what it was going to be called at that point in time, but I knew it couldn’t be called A Light in His Eyes, because it was a bigger story.

Sharon daVanport: Right.

Tom Murray: [It wasn’t just about] Mom and Christopher. It was about me; it was about Christopher; it was about our father; it was about my relationship with Christopher and ultimately, I guess it was about me as much as it was about my brother and my mother and our dad and his dad.

So all I can tell you is that, after having this film that I thought I was going to make in my head for 15 years, and then discovering this footage and putting it together with the footage that we had from the ’60s and ’70s and ’50s of all of us as kids, the film came together in less than a year and a half. From the time that I uncovered that film and watched it in 2008 until August of last year, which is when I was fortunate enough to get this deal with Showtime, it was less than a year and a half.

So it came together very quickly once I found that film. But that film gave me permission to not only tell Dad’s story and include that in the film, but really, to tell what was becoming my part of the whole story, and also the relationship that I have with Christopher. As I try to point out in the film, I think Christopher’s leading a life that, in many ways, is a life to be aspired to.

Sharon daVanport: I appreaciated the way you say, Tom, in the documentary, you said that you had always been determined to protect Christopher from the cruelties of the world, and then here you find yourself learning so much from him.

Tom Murray: Yeah.

Sharon daVanport: I thought that was very powerful, and when I heard you say that in the film, my mind went back, because I kind of think in pictures, being on the spectrum myself. I just had this flash of the earlier picture I saw of your mother in the documentary, holding Christopher after he was born and then remembering your words, telling about how she was determined also to make for sure that she was there to bring out. Because she saw more within him. And then it had her voice talking about how she saw more within him, and an expression that was there that wasn’t often there with other children that you associated with disability.

So when you said that, “determined to protect him from the cruelties of the world,” what were you thinking in your mind? What are some of those cruelties of the world that you, as a sibiling, felt you needed to protect him from?

Tom Murray: Well, when you’re a kid…I’m sure Helen can speak to this, too. But the first thing you experience as a kid…I was older. I’m eight years older than Christopher, and so I saw a lot of this from a distance. When he’s a little boy, there’s that old, initial fear that other kids aren’t going to understand him. He’s going to be teased and taunted and made fun of. And then as he gets older and his condition becomes more and more obvious, and his handicap becomes more obvious, with the whispering. Christopher never looks different.

Sharon daVanport: Right.

Tom Murray: As Mom says in the film, some kids are handicapped and they have that dull look in their eyes like, for instance, a Down Syndrome child, or something like that. You know right off the bat that that poor child has a handicap. Christopher was never like that, but there were other qualities that came out as he got older.

And so there’s an instinct, I think that all of us had, thanks to our mother that just made you hyperaware when you walked into a room with Christopher that you waned to be sure that wasn’t going to be put in a position where he was going to be feeling awkward or uncomfortable or, God forbid, that someone was going to come up and start making fun of him—which happened, and which his sister Connie was a lot more aware of than I was. I was older. So I think as an older brother you want to make everything okay. You want to just make his world perfect and just protect him formever.

Sharon daVanport: Right.

Tom Murray: And again, that came from Mom. I think Mom emanated this feeling that there was incredible potential there, and that she was going to get every ounce of potential out of him that was there. That was why the film was initially going to be called A Light in His Eyes, because Mom always saw something there that the experts weren’t seeing.

Sharon daVanport: Right.

Tricia Kenney: I’d like to ask Mom a couple questions.

Tom Murray: Yes. Please.

Tricia Kenney: Are you there?

Janice Murray: Yes, I’m here.

Tricia Kenney: Okay. Thank you. When did you notice that Christopher might have some special circumstances going on?

Janice Murray: Well, his birth was extremely difficult and prolonged. And then when we brought him home, I felt that he was almost too easy. He was not a demanding baby. He wasn’t a hungry baby, and I thought he was in that way very different from the other children I’d had, the other babies. He was just not responsive, and by the time he was eight months old or so, he would rock back and forth and make this sing-song “enh, enh, enh.”

I felt definitely that there was a problem, and when I mentioned it to the doctor, I was urged to not compare him with the other children. Well, that was a little bit difficult. It was difficult to follow that advice. There were definite differences.

Tricia Kenney: Right, right. For as much as people tell you not to compare your children to each other, when you’ve had a few, you know what to expect. You can tell when something’s going on, right?

Janice Murray: That’s right.

Sharon daVanport: And in the film, it was brought up that Christopher did not walk for 16 months and did not speak until he was four. So I’m sure as that evolved into you seeing those differences, was that helpful for you, to be able to finally point out to doctors that something definitely was differnet about him?

Janice Murray: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. And of course, the first treatment we sought was that very controversial program that they had down in Philadelphia. Even the doctor when I described it to him, he said: “Well, I don’t know anything about it. It sounds pretty far out.” But he said: “If I were in your position, I think I would try anything.”

Sharon daVanport: I thought something was interesting, Mrs. Murray. I’m glad you brought that up, because I was wanting you to actually explain to our listeners a little bit about this. Chris spoke his first sentence after you actually started this controversial treatment.

Janice Murray: Yes.

Sharon daVanport: And it had to do with the doctors feeling like…Now, I’ll have you speak to this, because I wasn’t quite sure where this fell into into it. If it was autism—that they felt that there was something that Chris missed out on, due to the neurology of autism, to where he needed to start doing crawling and patterning, where the siblings actually got down there and helped him do this, as well. So can you speak to the therapy itself, so everyone knows what we’re talking about?

Janice Murray: It evolved from the doctors at the Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential—that children like Christopher had missed an essential stage of development. That these children had not done enough creeping and crawling. So that’s what made us embark on this extremely demanding regime, where we started out with an hour of creeping. Initially, I didn’t really know the difference between creeping and crawling, but creeping is on your hands and knees. Crawling is when you’re down on your belly, the way people inch along if they’re trying to keep a very low profile.

Tricia Kenney: Oh, like military guys. Right.

Sharon daVanport: [Chuckles] Right.

Janice Murray: And so it started out with the creeping for an hour a day. Then it developed finally into two hours of creeping and one hour of crawling. This was incredibly difficult to implement, because after a while, he resented it so much. Actually, towards the end of it, before I terminated this program, he said to me, very plaintively: “Why am I always being punished?”

Tricia Kenney: Aw.

Janice Murray: And I thought: “I can’t do this anymore.”

Tricia Kenney: Yeah.

Sharon daVanport: Aw.

Janice Murray: So I called the Institutes and I spoke to one of the men there—one of the doctors. I said: “I can’t do this.” [He said:] “Well, if you don’t do it, you are going to be responsible for your child not developing his potential.” Well, we had been doing this for close to two years.

Tricia Kenney: Wow.

Sharon daVanport: Oh, wow.

Janice Murray: Yeah. I felt we had given it a good try. They didn’t think so; they didn’t believe. As it turned out, after the freedom of information legislation was passed, we got records from the institute which were very difficult to read. In one of them, it said something to the effect: “Well, the parents didn’t do the program, and that’s why it failed.” Well, it didn’t completely fail. Initially, we did feel that it was doing something for him, especially when, early on, he said: “I want to get off this table and go watch TV.”


Sharon daVanport: I loved that, in the film, the way you brought that out. And he spoke his first sentence after that. Wow. Hey, it served its purpose. But you know, Mrs. Murray, what I absolutely adore about you and your parental instincts and the way you nurtured and loved all your children, and helped everyone to understand Chris?

[It’s] that you did it by total instinct. You allowed the professionals to introduce something to you, but you as a mother stepped in and decided if it was going to be something that would continue with your child. You did it because you heard Chris, and what Chris was asking and wanting and what he was saying that the therapy meant to him. He thought he was being punished. And that’s what I think is awesome, that you listened to Chris. It was [unknown].

Janice Murray: Oh, yes. I couldn’t continue if he was feeling that way, and it had become so difficult to implement the program anyway. My husband finally had a…you know what a Slinky is?

Sharon daVanport: Right.

Janice Murray: He got someone to make a big Slinky that was covered with fabric, so it was like a tunnel. We could get Chris to crawl through that, initially. This was towards the end. This is the last summer that we were on the program. It was built to their specifications, to be only…I forget the dimension, but it was something like an inch higher than the measure of his head. In other was, it was to keep his head down for the crawling process.

Tricia Kenney: Wow.

Janice Murray: We did everything that we could to implement this program. It just got to the point where I felt it would be cruel to pursue it any further. And this is a little bit off what you were asking me, but at this point, I think it is useful to say that…

See, Christopher was the baby for four years, until his younger sister was born. No one was jealous of him. He was absolutely adorable, and I felt we were very lucky that the problem, if we were going to have a problem, was with the youngest child, not the oldest. I knew from experience talking to other parents that when it’s the oldest child, the other children never, never fully understand why that oldest child got so much attention.

Sharon daVanport: Oh, I see. Birth order makes a difference. I think that’s a great point to bring out, Mrs. Murray. Speaking about birth order, we should bring Helen into the conversation. [Laughter] I think this would be a great time [unknown] to do this, Helen.

Tricia Kenney: I was going to ask, before we move on: Did they diagnose him with autism at that time?

Helen Murray: Mom?

Janice Murray: No. No, he was not diagnosed until about three years ago.

Tricia Kenney: Okay.

Janice Murray: Believe it or not, he was not diagnosed. We were flying by the seat of our pants.

Sharon daVanport: Oh, wow. And I think that’s a great point to bring out for a lot of listeners and people who maybe didn’t follow the documenatary and the story of your family. That was about when I received my diagnosis. I have Asperger’s, and I received my diagnosis as an adult. Everyone in my family was like: “Well, hello! If we’d have known about that, we could have told you that years ago.” It’s no surprise to them, even though it only took me three specialists to go to before I accepted it, and thought: “Okay. All right. That’s what I have.” But I think it’s important to bring out—that Chris just recieved an official diagnosis three years ago. Before we move on to Helen, can you explain just briefly why that was, Mrs. Murray, that it took so long?

Janice Murray: We went to so many different doctors over the years. When Christopher was about 13, through a friend, we were able to get an appointment at the Menier Clinic out in Kansas, I think it is: famous, famous place. We were there for five long, difficult days. He was seen by every kind of doctor: a pediatrician, a neurologist, a psychologist, a psychiatrist. At the end of the visit, we had a conference with all of the doctors. They said, in essence, that they had never really seen anyone quite like Christopher.

Tricia Kenney: Wow.

Janice Murray: While they wouldn’t have necessarily approved of some of the things we did—specifically the creeping and crawling routine and all of that. “We don’t think we would have recommended that. But neither would we be able to have predicted that Christopher would be functioning even as well as he is now. So take him home and keep on doing it.”

Tricia Kenney: Wow.

Sharon daVanport: Right. Wow.

Janice Murray: Yeah. Which was very encouraging and very honest of them, because most professionals in our experience were reluctant or just couldn’t say: “I don’t know what’s wrong with your child. I just don’t know.” They would tell you anything: “Put him away; find a place. He’s never going to get better.” But to have a group of professionals say: “We don’t know, really, what’s wrong with your son,” was extraordinarily liberating.

Tricia Kenney: Yeah.

Sharon daVanport: Right. Wow. I’m just really enjoying this show. This is quickly becoming my favorite, Tricia. I don’t know about you.

Tricia Kenney: I know. And it’s such a testament to Mom.

Sharon daVanport: I know.

Tricia Kenney: Trust your instincts and love your child and do everything you can for your child. You do have to go with those instincts, and thankfully, she’d been a mom several times over so she knew what she was doing.

Sharon daVanport: That’s right.

Janice Murray: Well, I didn’t [unknown]

Sharon daVanport: Oh, you did! I think Tricia means maybe not about Chris, but were you meaning, Tricia that those instincts, where she knew somethingat was different is that she was able to—

Tricia Kenney: Not only that, but how to take care of her children. She wasn’t a brand-new mom. She’d taken care of children before, so she had honed into the whole methodology of being Mom.

Janice Murray: I saw in him, I saw in his eyes, soemthign that was, I thought, reachable. He was not stupid. He wasn’t dull. He was very much alive in a uncontrolled, very active way.

Sharon daVanport: Tom, I love the way you brought that out in the film—just to say that before we get over to Helen. I love that that was brought out in the film, how you, Mrs. Murray, you just saw that. You knew. You saw that in Chris’s eyes, and you observed that in him. I thought that was a very important point to bring out in the film. I really apprciated that. So, Helen, are you still with us?


Helen Murray: Yes.

Sharon daVanport: Oh, gosh. I just love this. Now bringing you on is completing some of this story. I really apprciate so much, even in my own family. When I watch something, I of course compare it to something, I think like we all do—our own situation.

Helen Murray: Sure.

Sharon daVanport: Bipolar runs in my family, so I can say that…Each one of the siblings (there’s four in my family), we each have a different take in a different relationship with the family member who has bipolar in my family. So I really appreciated that about how Tom was very open and honest, and how you did that, Tom, throughout the film, about your love and respect and appreciation. And then you guys were so honest about the pain. The sweeping moment for me in the film was something you said, Helen. Can you guess what it probably was?

Helen Murray: What was that?

Sharon daVanport: When you said that God looked down and saw seven people in pain.

Helen Murray: Oh, yeah.

Sharon daVanport: Wow. Why don’t you tell everybody? Do you remember what you said in the film, so that people know what we’re talking about?

Helen Murray: Yes.

Sharon daVanport: Why don’t you say that? Then we’ll get into that part of how this impacted you and Chris and everyone.

Helen Murray: Our dad drowned out in Southampton on August 4, 1979. The ’70s for our family, primarily what we were going through with Dad, who was undiagnosed bipolar. He was the adult child of an alcoholic. His father died at the age of 37, leaving seven children.

Tom Murray: He was also bipolar [unknown] undiagnosed as well. He used to go to a doctor and everything.

Helen Murray: Yeah. And so Dad was a loving person, but he was terribly, terribly complicated. He got into a great deal of trouble, business-wise, in the ’70s. At least I felt my life [chuckles] was falling apart. The house in Southampton was sold; the apartment in New York was sold. It was like everything that I grew up with, and had clung to as a strong part of my identity all of a sudden was gone.

Janice Murray: Excuse me for interrupting. You’re not saying that the result of the sales…We didn’t get the money from the sales.

Helen Murray: Oh no, I know.

Janice Murray: Everything went to the banks. Everything. Go on, Helen.

Helen Murray: Yeah. No.

Sharon daVanport: [Laughter]

Helen Murray: When Dad died, as sad as it was—and it was tragic—there was a certain amount of solace in the fact that he died in the place that he loved the most in the world, which was the beach in Southampton. What I said in the film was that on August 4, 1979, God turned around and saw seven people in incredible pain. The person who was in the most pain was the cause of everybody else’s pain, so God took him.

And I have to say, I don’t think I said this in the film, but I felt in my heart of hearts that, as soon as Dad was gone, everything started to get better. For me, the main reason was I didn’t have to worry about him anymore. That provided a fair amount of comfort, because, as frustrated and angry as I was at him at times, I did worry about him.

Sharon daVanport: Right. I love being able to do these kind of shows like this, Helen, because it gives you and other people an opportunity to fill in those gaps. So if people ever wondered, in that line in the film, why you said that or if they took it the wrong way, you get to say: It wasn’t because you wanted your dad gone. It was because you didn’t have to worry anymore.

Helen Murray: Exactly.

Sharon daVanport: That the [unknown] and the reasons were so much more complicated than you could just put in an 80-minute film.

Helen Murray: It’s a whole other film.

Sharon daVanport: Yeah, that’s a whole different story, right?

Helen Murray: Yeah. Exactly.

Sharon daVanport: That comes back to where your brother Tom, and how you, Tom, were able to talk towards the end of the film how your father’s death ended up being a catalyst even for Chris. I’d like to ask you, Helen: We got to hear so much about Tom’s beautiful relationship with Chris in the film, and that’s so touching. As a sister—and an older sister to Chris—I would like to ask you: How did your relationship and the differences in Chris when you were young impact you? Did you feel like you needed to protect him, like Tom?

Helen Murray: Yeah. I would honestly echo everything that Tommy said earlier about feeling protective towards Chris. There were instances that I heard of, especially out in Southampton, where kids would tease him. I’d hear about it after the fact, and it would enrage me. It would enrage me to the point where I really [laughter] at times, I wanted to grab a child by the shirt and push him into a corner and say: “You ever do that again.” Which, of course, I never did.

Tricia Kenney: Right.

Helen Murray: But it’s something I think that anyone who loves someone with a disability never wants them to be on the receiving end of anything unkind.

Tricia Kenney: Right.

Sharon daVanport: Right.

Helen Murray: I think also—and I’ve had this conversation with numerous friends of mine—I think that patience and understanding of people with disabilities is something that starts at home. You can’t expect it to be taught to one’s children by teachers and school. Parents have to set the example. It always made me wonder, with some of these kids who came from parents who were highly educated and had a lot of money, but their kids were, as far as Christopher was concerned, their kids were little creeps.

Sharon daVanport: Right.

Helen Murray: So, yeah, it bothered me. And I [laughter] still have a grudge against a couple of them, but they’ll never know it.


Sharon daVanport: Oh, my goodness. Also, Helen, I’d like for you to speak more to the adult aspect of it now. I know that you’re staying involved in the autism community as yourself there in New York.

Helen Murray: Yeah, yeah.

Sharon daVanport: With Christopher now, I want our audience and our listeners to know that we did ask if he could be on the radio show. I want you to explain to our listeners why Christopher isn’t joining us today.

Helen Murray: Sure.

Sharon daVanport: Just so that everyone knows that we did give him an opportunity to come on, but he’s really not able to.

Helen Murray: Yeah. I had this conversation with Mom, and I think with Tommy. Christopher—just so everybody knows, Christopher and I participated back in July at the Advancing Futures for Adults with Autism, the Congressional hearing in Washington. We were on the stakeholder panel, and you can see it on YouTube. Christopher was absolutely brilliant.

Janice Murray: Yes, he was.

Helen Murray: And he spoke, and I was so proud of him. He was brilliant. But we decided amongst the three of us that for Chris to do a radio show, where he was going to be on the phone, and Mom was going to be on one phone and I was going to be on the other and Tommy, and then you all, that it was going to be a little bit too abstract for him.

Sharon daVanport: It is for me as well, sometimes. I can tell you. [Laughter] I’m not making light of that; I’m serious. It’s really difficult sometimes to even keep up with voices for me.

Helen Murray: Absolutely. And he is brilliant one-on-one; he’s adorable and charming, one-on-one. He loves meeting people, and as I’ve said about him, he never forgets a name. He never forgets where he met someone. He can be very, very chatty. But I think this kind of back-and-forth, and, as you said, one voice here, one there, it wouldn’t reflect who he is. That’s why I think it’s important for people to see the film.

Sharon daVanport: Absolutely.

Helen Murray: Tommy really got everything about Chris in the film, and people can see him interact and speak there. I hope that your audience understands why he isn’t here.

Sharon daVanport: I appreciate you explaining that.

Helen Murray: Sure.

Sharon daVanport: I did want everyone to understand it’s not because anyone’s trying to speak for Chris. Like you said, see the film.

Helen Murray: Exactly.

Sharon daVanport: It is truly Chris’s voice throughout. I was explaining to you even before the documentary that a few minutes into the film, I was thinking to myself—and, Tom, I don’t think you were on the line at the time, but I was telling Helen before the show began…A few minutes into the documentary, I was thining to myself: “Well, I don’t think this is really an autism documentary.” But it didn’t take long for me to realize after I thought that: “Oh, yes, it is.”

Autism is about the whole family experience, and where you, Mrs. Murray, where you were able to be the one sounding voice that your children, where Tom, Helen, Connie and David, everybody were able to rally around and understand that Chris’s differences were something that were just so profound. And then for you, Tom, to bring in the life experience of your father and his history, and that lineage and what it meant to each one of you—just beautiful. I really recommend that anyone who has not seen this film really should. Helen, can you tell everyone where they can get the film right now? Where we can purchase it?

Helen Murray: Yes.

Tom Murray: [Unknown] she certainly can.

Janice Murray: [Unknown] right now, before we forget. [Laughter]

Helen Murray: I know that the film is airing again on September 28 on Showtime Family channel, which is just one of the Showtime channels. The best place, honestly, right now, because the Showtime airings seem to be whittling down…It premiered at the beginning of April on Showtime, as part of Autism Awarenewss Month.

Sharon daVanport: Okay.

Helen Murray: But it is now available on Amazon, and that’s the absolute best place to get it.

Sharon daVanport: Oh, wonderful.

Tom Murray: Can I also plug the website?


Sharon daVanport: Yeah, sure. Absolutely. The Two Sons Productions one? Is that the one? I love that one.

Tom Murray: Yeah. The website also has links to the DVD and to the lovely posters that Christopher did as well. That’s pretty easy to remember. That’s pretty easy to remember: it’s www.inheavenmovie.com. And that’s got examples of Christopher’s art, as well as a link to ordering on Amazon and the posters, and some background history of the family and everything else.

Sharon daVanport: Okay.

Tricia Kenney: Well, let’s talk about his art.

Sharon daVanport: That’s what I was going to say: his artwork. Thank you, Tricia. [Laughter] I want to get to all his artwork. This is just wonderful, how Gloria Vanderbilt was able to do the showing back in ’99. This is awesome, so, yeah. Go ahead, Tricia, I’m sorry.

Helen Murray: What it was, was Mrs. Vanderbilt was having dinner at the home of one of Mom’s dearest friends. She saw one of Chris’s paintings and asked if he had had a show, and she was told “No,” but she very kindly gave Mrs. Biddle, Mom’s friend, the information of a gallery in downtown New York, called KS Art. She thought Kerry Schuss, who is the owner, and he’s a well-respected art dealer, she thought he would be interested in Chris’s work. So Mrs. Vanderbilt was instrumental in hooking Chris up with an art dealer.

Sharon daVanport: Tricia, did you have some questions for Mrs. Murray? I know you did about the artwork, and when Chris started art.

Tricia Kenney: Yeah. When did that emerge as something…he wanted to express himself that way?

Janice Murray: Well, it started with him making very fragile constructions of trucks and cars. When I say “fragile,” I mean fragile. They were made from construction paper, and he notched the pieces together.

Tricia Kenney: Oh, okay.

Janice Murray: There were no staples, no tape, nothing. Actually, his therapist watched while he made one of these constructions, which were perfect at scale. The therapist said to me: “How would you do the sides of a car or truck?” I said: “Well, I suppose I would make a pattern and cut out two pieces and reverse them on either side of the car.” And he said: “Well, yes, that’s the way I would do it, too.” He said: “Chris cuts them out separately, and you could lay one on top of the other, and they match perfectly.”

Tricia Kenney: Wow. Nice.

Janice Murray: He did that for quite a while. And then he moved on to making these very crude dollhouses out of cartons. He would make furniture, and they were really quite charming. Then when he was about 19 or 20, we were up in Maine in a cabin—a real log cabin—for a vacation, and he asked me to get him some colored pencils and some paper. He started to draw, and he drew the inside of the cabin first. Then he drew a scene across this little inlet of water, and that’s how it started. He has not stopped since.

Tom Murray: I think you should say, Mom, that that all started…if I remember correctly, it started the summer of 1980, which was the summer after Dad died.

Janice Murray: Yes, that’s true.

Tom Murray: And Christopher…I think that was really, if I can be so bold here, Mom, I think that was really his way of expressing…All of us have been able to articulate our grief over—

Janice Murray: Yeah.

Tom Murray: —the tragic and premature death of our father, and Christopher obvously couldn’t do that. And so this is his way, I think, of getting in touch with that part of himself that would allow him to express himself.

Janice Murray: I think that could very well be true. Dad, without meaning to, he held Christopher back. He didn’t really see his potential. He never did. And whenever Chris would make the slightest little improvement and get on to a slightly higher plateau, your dad would say: “Oh, he’s going to be fine. He’s going to be fine. He’ll be able to go to Buckley,” which is a school for boys here in New York, where his brother David went. I said to him: “No. He’s never going to be able to go to Buckley. That’s not realistic.”

So without in any way being unkind—he adored Christopher, he loved him very much. But he simply did not see what Christopher could be, and I think that, in some way, that was transmitted to Chris.

Tricia Kenney: Mm.

Sharon daVanport: Aw. And that’s so true, Mrs. Murray. Trish, you can talk more about this. I know you handle a lot of our incoming questions through the AWN in the autism community, is how parents can definitely, without even realizing the language they use or the language they don’t use to their children on the spectrum or [with] any disability, they could so much hold them back without realizing it.

Tricia Kenney: Right. It’s like the struggle between denialism and giving up. Some people try to act like: “Well, my child’s no different from any other child,” to such an extent that they are expecting more than that child can deliver at that time.

Janice Murray: Yes.

Tricia Kenney: And you should also have hope and aspiration and goals. Everybody needs goals in their life. But the problem with that is it has to be at the right time. And then there’s also those who are saying: “No. This is never going to happen for my child”—giving up when the child is maybe four years old only, saying: “They’re never going to be able to do this or that,” when in fact you don’t know that. It’s hard to tell that when somebody is such a young age.

Janice Murray: Very true.

Tricia Kenney: So, yeah. It’s a struggle that a lot of parents go through, and it’s very normal. We all experience that. It’s really just how you deal with it afterwards, and how you grow with that and how you learn from your child. We really get these great lessons from our children that show us the way—that they’re ready for more. That they get frustrated that they’re not getting more input or are able to express themselves in different outlets.

Janice Murray: Right.

Tricia Kenney: It’s great that you were able to let Chris lead like that.

Janice Murray: Well, I think he’s taught us all a great deal.

Tricia Kenney: Yeah.

Janice Murray: He’s a wonderful man. He’s kind; he is thoughtful; he likes people; he wants people to like him. Whenever he’s around, when he comes home, here to visit from time to time, he always sees something that he can do: taking the garbage out to the back hall without being asked.

Tricia Kenney: Aw.

Janice Murray: All sorts of things that he does, just because he’s a kind, thoughtful human being.

Sharon daVanport: Right. He works, doesn’t he? He works two different jobs? Can you tell us about the jobs that Chris works?

Janice Murray: Well, he works at a health food store, where he is in charge of the dairy department. He’s worked there for years. I think he’s there, in terms of length of service, he’s—

Helen Murray: He’s been there 25 years.

Janice Murray: Yes. Been there a long time.

Tricia Kenney: Wow.

Janice Murray: He takes care of stocking the shelves with yogurt and milk and that kind of thing.

Sharon daVanport: And Häagen Dazs; I remember that from the film. Häagen Dazs, is that true? I love that. [Laughter] I remember that from the film. He brought that out, too, and I thought: “You go, Chris. That’s right—Häagen Dazs. You can’t forget that.”

Janice Murray: He’s a very reliable employee, and the people he works for couldn’t be nicer. They are almost like another family to him. He works there three days a week, and the fourth day he is a volunteer at Yale New Haven hospital, where he does clean up work: sweeping and that kind of thing. He used to do that two days a week, but recently, the fifth working day, he spends at home doing his artwork.

Sharon daVanport: Well, good for Chris. Volunteering in the community over at the hospital. You know something, Tom, I would love for you to touch on, and you as well, Helen and Mrs. Murray, is talking about probably what I felt was the most difficult to hear, but the most raw and honest part, other than, of course, the honesty about your father and the possible bipolar that he had. But I wanted to talk about how you, Mrs. Murray, and Tom, how you decided to bring this out in the film about preparing Christopher. Because this is a huge, huge deal, and I can speak as a parent to a child on the spectrum who is more severely affected than I am. You do wonder when you’re gone, and when you’re not around. Parents say this every day: “What is going to happen to my child? Who’s going to be there for my child?”

Janice Murray: Yes.

Sharon daVanport: That’s probably the one thing I appreciate the most about the film, is how even though it was the briefest part, even though it was touched about throughout the film, it’s a hard topic to talk about. But it was so honest and so beautiful. Can you let our listeners know: How is that? It seemed like a very difficult thing for Chris to even hear people talk about.

Janice Murray: Well, I don’t think it was easy for him, and it wasn’t easy for me. But the last few years, I have deliberately tried to make myself not such a fixture in his life to such an extent that he doesn’t have the kind of independence that I was trying to instill in him. So starting quite a few years ago—I guess about 15 years ago—I decided that I would try something, which was to be away for his birthday.

Sharon daVanport: Oh. For something that was really pivotal. Okay.

Janice Murray: I made reservations with the airline and I went out to California. I told him that I wasn’t going to be around, and I said: “What would you like to do?” I said: “You can either have a few people over to your apartment, and I’ll provide the money for food and everything. Or you can take four or five people out.” He said he wanted to do it in his apartment.

Sharon daVanport: Okay.

Janice Murray: So I was out in California the day the birthday came, and of course I had this: “Oh, my God. What have I done?” moment.

Tricia Kenney: Right.

Sharon daVanport: Right.

Janice Murray: I was really very anxious. I talked to him at the end of the day. He had obviously enjoyed it; he told me what he had…he had ordered pizza in, and then he said: “And I made tuna fish sandwiches.”

Sharon daVanport: Aw. There you go. He did great, didn’t he, Mom? [Laughter] This is awesome!

Janice Murray: He not only did it, but he loved it. That has become something that he does every year now. We have two celebrations. He has one at home with us, and then he has one for his friends.

Sharon daVanport: There you go. See, that greater love that you’re able to show. I just think that…Tom, that had to be a difficult part for you, because you’re your mother’s son, too. Even though you bring it aroun full-circle to Chris in the film, just to touch on that topic—one day your mother not being there—had to just be heartwrenching for you to even touch on in the film.

Tom Murray: Yeah, it was really difficult. That particular moment in the film was [all?] very spontaneous, because all I was going for that day was to get some video of Mom and Christopher walking around the park together. I didn’t have any footage of them together. And then we sat them down on the bench, and we put a microphone on Mom. I just said her—it wasn’t staged anywhere, I just said: “Maybe you can just talk to Chris a little bit about how you’ve changed the way you have been dealing with him over the past ten or 12 years, in terms of what she just said, which is backing off a little bit.” And so that all came out very spontaneously. Again, the thing that’s wonderful about Christopher is that he really does believe that we’re all going to be reunited up in Heaven.


Sharon daVanport: I love that you’re bringing this out. I love [unknown] the Nixon thing.

Tom Murray: Everyone’s [back?] up in Heaven with Dad and Richard Nixon. I think that’s his way of dealing with the pain and…obviously, when you lose a loved one, it’s not something you would want to think about. But I think Christopher has a way of dealing with that that is somewhat soothing for him.

Janice Murray: I think it’s very comforting for him to think about us all having a big reunion up in Heaven with Nixon and all the other people. He’s lost a lot of friends, old and young. I figure, there’s nothing to lose here by talking to him in that way. I said to him very frankly: “I’m not always going to be here.” I’m absolutely certain that he’s going to be sad, but I also feel that he has the strength to get through it.

He’s got a wonderful support system up in New Haven, because the place where he lived has wonderful, ongoing oppotunities and activities for their graduates. They’re dealing now with an older group. These people are no longer kids—Christopher’s 50. Most of his friends are in that age range. They’ve got it all together, and I’ve seen how they have handled when there have been deaths, and I think they couldn’t possibly be more caring and more supportive. My concerns about Christopher have been somewhat alleviated.

Sharon daVanport: Right.

Janice Murray: I think he’s so much stronger than he used to be. He handles situations in the family, which is something I think maybe you need to deal with, just not in depth. But we are not a perfect family, by any means. His younger sister doesn’t really understand, even now, how much attention he needed, and is fairly resentful.

Sharon daVanport: And that’s important to bring out. I think that that goes back to the very beginning of the show, Mrs. Murray, how you were talking about birth order. I see that in my own family, too. It’s very true; birth order and how people understand, and can really accept the differences in the siblings. Yes, it really does make a difference.

Janice Murray: Yes. Yes.

Tricia Kenney: And even, well, in my situation, I have twins, and they’re both autistic, [so?] they’re very different. The one who does a lot more flowing, talking communication, he has asked me: “How come Austin doesn’t do this?” And I just explain to him: “Well, he’s just not ready to do that yet.”

Janice Murray: Yes.

Tricia Kenney: So yeah, they’re twins, and there’s that going on. [Laughter]

Sharon daVanport: Right.

Tricia Kenney: I think it’s just a sibling thing, when they’re kind of close in age and they can see the difference in what they’re each doing in their daily lives.

Janice Murray: Yes; yes. How old are your twins?

Tricia Kenney: They’re eight.

Sharon daVanport: And how old was Chris when Connie was born?

Janice Murray: Four.

Sharon daVanport: Four, okay.

Janice Murray: He is four years and three days older than she is.

Tricia Kenney: Oh, wow.

Janice Murray: So already, he was younger. Chris was four years younger than his next oldest sibling, because the three older ones are two years apart. So when Chris was born, Tommy was eight, Helen was six and David was four. Connie, the younger sister, feels that she’s always been lumped with him, which is true. I tried to make her understand that I do really get a lot of the reasons that she’s still, after all these years, resentful of the amount of attention.

Sharon daVanport: Right. I get that, Mrs. Murray. I understand that. My son is 17 who’s on the spectrum, and all of his sisters lives…My youngest child, she’s 13, and what you’re describing with Connie is a lot like what my youngest daughter…my son’s youngest sister. She deals with that. It’s not that she doesn’t love him or want him to be accepted.

Janice Murray: Right.

Sharon daVanport: But she has some very strong emotions that are actually nothing about him. They’re really about her, and how she’s trying to accept her own self nd her own place in his life. So that’s what I’ve taken from it, is it’s more about her. Not that she’s trying to make it about her. She’s a child. Yeah, I think that sibling dynamics, boy, that’s a whole other show and that’s a whole other documentary. What are you thinking, Tom?


I can just see it now. You should go to Showtime [and see what they?] think about that. But it’s really true. I think the family impact and how autism affects families…We talk a lot as self-advocates, and Tricia can speak to this so well. We just had this huge conversation with somebody the other day about this, and Tricia just brought out wonderful points about how we as self-advocates and those of us who have a grasp on language and can communicate who are on the spectrum, we’re trying so hard to help people understand us, and that’s really important and that’s needed, and autism cannot go forward without that. But we also have to sit back and appreciate that these family dynamics, that autism, it really is something that impacts every single person in the family in a different way.

Janice Murray: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Sharon daVanport: It really does. And we need to talk about that more, without being critical of it. We need to accept it and talk about it more.

Janice Murray: Yes.

Tom Murray: I think the bottom line here is that everybody in a family—in my family and anybody in any family is going to have a different point of view of whatever their experience was. Connie would make a much different film than the one I made, and Helen would make a much different film than the one I made, and my brother David would, I’m sure, do the same, as would Mom. You couldn’t tell this story of my mother and my brother in the abstract. In other words, I think to fully appreciate the journey, you just had to include all the elements that, from my point of view anyway, that came out. So much of our experience was…we were all interconnected.

In my own way, I was trying to fix my father. I was oblivioua to a lot of the qualities that he had that were absolutely terrifying to a large degree to other members of the family, and I was really oblivious to them. I championed his bad temper and everything. I normalized it. Here I am, middle-age, and I think it took this film for me to recognize a lot of stuff that I…what I was doing as a child…I was doing what I could to survive, and doing what I thought I was supposed to do for my father. But I think if I had to do things differently, I absolutely would have.

Sharon daVanport: Right. But, really, it made you who you are, so it’s okay. You wouldn’t even change things. It got you to where you are and the understanding that you have now, to be able to share with all of us, with everyone about your journey.

Tom Murray: Sure. That’s absolutely right.

Sharon daVanport: Helen, that brings back to one of my other favorite lines in the film, when you talked about fate. A lot of people think: “Oh, that’s such a guruish thing to say,” but I don’t think you meant it in that way.

Helen Murray: Oh, no.

Sharon daVanport: I think you meant it in a very logical way. That, really, it happened because that’s the way it was supposed to happen. I really felt that from my gut when you said that.

Helen Murray: Yeah.

Sharon daVanport: Can you tell us what you meant about that? About things [being fated?]

Helen Murray: It’s something I think that even before Dad died, I think I’ve always had that attitude: that things happen for a reason. You can’t interfere with fate. [Chuckles] You just can’t. What is going to happen is going to happen. There are times where we go through tremendous amounts of pain and tremendous amounts of joy, but I think the whole process of living is learning. So, yeah. I don’t know what more to say about it than that. For me, it was what happened was exactly what was supposed to happen.

Sharon daVanport: That’s perfect. [Chuckles]

Helen Murray: Yeah.

Tricia Kenney: I see this time and again: how a circumstance in the family leads everybody in a new direction. What you’re doing with your life right now. Are you involved with autism at all?

Helen Murray: Am I? Yes.

Tricia Kenney: Yes, Helen. I’m sorry. [Chuckles]

Helen Murray: Yeah. I’m volunteering for an organization called GRASP, which is the Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership. It’s a unique organization, in that I think 50 percent of the people on the board are on the spectrum. I’ve been learning a tremendous amount about the autism community through my work with GRASP, which has been absolutely fascinating.

Tricia Kenney: Right. That never would’ve been in your life if it weren’t for Chris.

Helen Murray: No. Honestly, to be brutally honest, I don’t know if I would like the person that I would have been had none of this stuff happened.

Sharon daVanport: Oh, that’s an interesting thought. Another interesting documentary. Tom, are you taking notes?


Helen Murray: That one, he’s not allowed to do.

Sharon daVanport: I think that’s true with all of us, though, right?

Helen Murray: Despite my issues with my father, I growing up was loved. Everything that he initially was able to provide us with: always a great home, a great house in the country. I don’t think I was miserably spoiled, but I didn’t really lack for anything. I really thought that was the way it was always going to be. So there was an element of a rude awakening when everything fell apart with Dad.

Sharon daVanport: Right.

Helen Murray: I adjusted. It’s a tribute to both Mom and Dad, because I think raising five children in the ’50s, ’60s, and in the case of Chris and Tommy, in the ’70s—none of us have experienced any issues with any form of substance abuse or destructive behavior, which I think is quite remarkable. I have so many friends who, the disabilities in their families may have been solely that they had way too much money. But it wasn’t where there was a special needs child, or anything like that. So many of my friends have been through rehab or had really bad issues with drugs or with alcohol. Our generation in our family has managed to avoid that, which I think is borderline miraculous.


Sharon daVanport: Especially with the family history that, Tom, you brought out in the film, with your grandfather being an alcoholic. I think that that was an important aspect to bring out in the film, to show that, like you said, Mrs. Murray, too: “Our family’s not perfect.” Well, no family is, and I think that’s a wonderful point to bring out. You’re not trying to glorify anything about your family.

And that’s what I like about the film, you guys. Truly, it is a down-to-earth film. You talk about the privilege on one hand, but you also talk about the brutal realities on the other.

Tom Murray: Yeah. If I could just check in here really quickly, the comments that people have left on the website and on the Facebook page have been wonderful, and they speak to Mom’s strength and Mom’s courage and Mom’s vision of being [unknown] over time, and Christopher’s sweetness and lack of guile and talent. But the one theme that seems to resonate with everyone, the message that has been left, is it’s a family story.

And that every family has a part of their story that has impacted them generationally, whether they have a father or a mother who drank, or a sibling who had some sort of mental illness, or there was some sort of abuse at some point in the family. These are things that people generally don’t like to talk about. For some reason, there seems to have been…In some ways I think this film…I’m very gratified that this has been the case, but it’s sort of given some of these folks permission, I think, to let some of the stuff that they’ve been keeping inside them go. For whatever reason, it’s been a tonic for some of these folks.

Sharon daVanport: Right.

Tom Murray: And that’s my point. That’s been a completely unexpected and wonderful turn of events. I never dreamed that it would have that kind of impact. It’s very gratifying. As I’ve said from the very beginning, when you do somehting like this and you’ve got people like my sister and my mother, loved ones and friends and family who see the film and they say: “Gee. This is nice. [You’ve done a nice shot?] here,” that’s one thing. But when you’ve got people who have no idea who you are, and it’s resonated with them and it’s made them think about their lives and what’s going on in their lives, that’s just been an overpowering and incredibly humbling experience. [Unknown] I’m very grateful.

Sharon daVanport: Oh, very nice, Tom. And Tricia and I wanted to also give each of you the opportunity—we talked about this…We wanted each of you to get an opportunity to say what the film meant to you, and to share with our listeners why you really want to share this film with them. Why it would be good for them to watch it—why you feel it would be, and why you shared it. So I’d like to start with you, Helen, then Tom, and then Mrs. Murray. So, Helen, if you had to say anything you want to our listeners about the film, what it meant to you, and why you would like for them to see it, what would that be?

Helen Murray: Again, I echo a lot of what Tommy just said. I’ve been impacted enormously by the comments on the website and on Facebook, communicating with so many of the people who have seen the film. I mentioned this to you, Sharon and Tricia, earlier: it’s hard for me to watch. I’ve seen it two and a half times [Chuckles], and I appreciate what a magnificent story it is. I am thrilled how it has resonated so loudly with the autism community, but also with anyone who sees it.

There are aspects of it, as Tommy said, that everybody can relate to. It’s a story of a family with issues, like any other family, and I think it has, as Tommy said, it’s given people permission, in a way, to let go of a lot of the stuff that may have been holding them back—at least, that’s what a number of people have written in. That is, as Tommy said, a gift that none of us anticipated.

Tricia Kenney: Mm.

Sharon daVanport: Wonderful. That’s just so nice, Helen. I’m really looking forward to being able to correspond with you more through your work with GRASP and the autism community.

Helen Murray: Oh, thank you.

Sharon daVanport: I’ve been liking your little tweets over there on Twitter, too, with GRASP. [Laughter] You’re doing their Twitter page—I like that.

Helen Murray: I upset a few people the other day, but that’s what it’s all about.

Sharon daVanport: In the autism community, we have a lot of differences going on. Once you get acclimated to the different things, it does get a little bit easier. [Laughter]

Helen Murray: Exactly, exactly. No, but it’s good. As long as people are talking about it. In the past year or so, there’s been so much more of a spotlight on autism, thanks to the Temple Grandin film. Los Angeles Magazine did a whole section on autism, and there’s an incredibly moving piece by Angie Dickenson about her daughter.

Sharon daVanport: Oh, Tricia and I were talking about that the other day, yeah.

Helen Murray: But it’s just important that people’s awareness, that we keep talking about it and letting people know that there are resources, and also that we need more resources. That’s part of my crusade now.

Sharon daVanport: Right. Well, Tom, let’s go to you. We want you to share anything you’d like about the film: why you did it. Of course, you touched on that, but just anything, and why you really wanted to share this with others, this story.

Tom Murray: There’s so many themes in the film, but the two that I’d like to just focus in on that [unknown] people to, as they move forward in life, hopefully. One is that love really is an incredibly powerful force, in terms of what my mother is able to do with my brother, just because she loved him and because she believed in him, and because she believed that there was more going on in those eyes than all the experts were telling her. She believed beyond anything that if she loved him and if she believed in him, that he would reach his potential; that whatever his potential was, it would be attained. That’s certainly borne itself out.

The other thing that I would say, just as far as I’m concerned, personally, is I think all of us in life spend a lot of time peering over that proverbial fence or hedgerow into the yard next door and always wondering or thinking that the grass is greener, and thinking that you’ve got to keep trying to do whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing to make yourself happy—whether it’s a new job or a new house or a new car or a new wife or a new husband or joining the country club, or whatever it is. I think the one thing that I’ve gotten from my brother that I hope and pray I will carry with me for the rest of my life is that he is an extraordinarily content and happy and well-adjusted human being. Of course, you’d have to quickly add that there’s a lot of things about his condition that filter out a lot of the stuff that we deal with on a daily basis and have to worry about: money and careers and romantic relationships, or lack thereof, and everything else. But I think there’s a lot to be said for someone who is just very happy in his own skin, who’s doing everything in his life for all the right reasons, and is a very happy person. I don’t know. Christopher, as I try to say in the film, I started my life literally grabbing him by the hand. [tearful pause]

Sharon daVanport: You did a beautiful job talking about that, Tom. You really did.

Tom Murray: [unknown] trying to [unknown], and here I am. I just had my 58th birthday, and my 50-year-old suposedly handicapped brother is really a beacon for me, in the same way I thought my dad was way back when. Of course, my dad did the best he could. But really, my brother is the one who is really living a life right now that I aspire in so many ways. I think that’s the bottom line here, for me, and I’ve been very gratified to hear that a lot of people who have seen the film have gotten that. That’s just that Christopher is just leading this golden life. Again, I’m not going to be nai¨ve and say: “Well, of course, he has a condition, and of course, there are things that he doesn’t deal with that we all deal with.” But, my God, he’s a remarkable human being. There’s a lot that’s going on in his life right now that I think is pretty terrific. I hope I’m as content and happy as he is one day.

Sharon daVanport: Wow. That’s powerful. For anyone who has not seen this film, just for the sheer fact of what Helen and Tom have even said about their different experiences, it’s all the reason why. I don’t know of a person who has not seen this film that has not said, in some way, that it resonates with them in some way. You find something, and I think that that’s a huge message to take away. I’d like to turn it over to you now, Mrs. Murray, to close out the show. To let us know what this film means to you, and why you were happy to have your family’s story and Chris’s story shared with all of us.

Janice Murray: I will start by saying that the film is difficult for me to watch. In some ways, it was difficult for me to participate in it, becuase I’m of the generation where things were not addressed. I can remember when I was very, very young, hearing my mother or an aunt saying about a friend in a whispery voice: “She has cancer.” And a lot of things that are spoken of openly now were simply not dealt with. So it’s not that I wanted Tommy to conceal anything, because I knew it had to be an honest film. But I was uncomfortable, in a way, about talking about these things.

Tricia Kenney: Sure.

Janice Murray: And seeing myself on camera and all that. But I absolutely feel, as Tommy and Helen have said, that now that the film has been out and it’s in circulation, I’m very proud of the effort and the love that Tommy put into making it. I can say to myself that I think I’ve got wonderful children. I think they are strong in ways that probably they wouldn’t have been without the experience of having a sibling with a disability. I think it’s made us all more sensitive. As far as my life goes, it’s been very challenging, and at times extremely difficult, but I wouldn’t change anything because of what I have learned, and what Tommy was able to express so well in the film. I’m very proud of him, and proud of every one of my children—even Connie, who presents some difficulties, as far as her real understanding of Christopher’s problem and how much of my time and energy it took to deal with it. She has a very loving relationship with Chrisopher, and on balance, I think we’ve all come through. I’m really very proud of all of us.

Tricia Kenney: Wow.

Sharon daVanport: Well, Mrs. Murray, I have to say that…I can’t speak for Tricia, but I’m going to just go out on a limb here and say that, for the year that we’ve been doing the Blogtalk radio show, I have to say that this is my all-time favorite interview. I just want to say that it is an honor to hear your story, and your family’s story. [Tearfully] As a parent, to hear everything you’ve said, because you say so much of what my mother tries to say to people. I’m 46 and come from a generation where people didn’t understand me a lot when I was younger. Just to hear you say these things, it’s just wonderful and beautiful. I thank you so much for taking the time to be with us today, and to share all of these reasons and how the story impacted you. And for you, Helen, to be taking an active role in all of this.

Helen Murray: Oh, thank you.

Sharon daVanport: And to keep that little sister of yours, Connie, close to you and under your wing, to help her continue to understand things. I saw the smile on her face on that little clip, back in ’99 at that showing. I think it was in ’99, the art gallery.

Helen Murray: Yeah.

Sharon daVanport: Her smile. You could just tell she was so proud. Connie was so proud of Chris. I love that clip.

Janice Murray: Yes.

Sharon daVanport: And Tommy, it just goes beyond saying, how much of an impact this film is having on so many families. I think you personally, from my family to your family, for sharing this—sharing your family’s journey with all of us.

Tom Murray: Well, thank you very much. And like I said, this has been very gratifying and completely unexpected. The fact that this film has impacted people who only know us through the film is incredibly powerful and gratifying. We’re just all so grateful that people are getting something from it, and are hopeful and full of optimism for the loved ones they have in their lives who are a little bit earlier on in the journey than we all are. Christopher’s a middle-aged man.

The one thing that Tina Bell from Autism Speaks said to me when I’d first showed them this film a year and a half ago—or whenever it was—was: “There’s very little information for people out there on families who are dealing with autism who are at the beginning of the road.” They have these [daunting?] statistics of one birth in every 70, 80 or 90, or whatever it is for males, or whatever the ongoing statistic is, and all kinds of scary anecdotal information about: “These kids don’t talk; they don’t communicate; they don’t hug you; they don’t tell you they love you, and it’s going to be a long, hard road.” I think, when you’ve got someone like Christopher, who has gone through that and has come out the other end, and obviously still has a lot to go, and still is encountering challenges and difficulties in his life, but is a happy person who is productive and doing somehting that makes him happy, I hope that has given a lot of poeple hope for the future of the loved ones that they have.

Sharon daVanport: I think that’s a good conversation about adults on the spectrum. I think it’s wonderful.

Tom Murray: Yeah, that’s a wonderful thought.

Sharon daVanport: It really is.

Tom Murray: Yep.

Sharon daVanport: Thank you guys so much.

Helen Murray: Thank you.

Tom Murray: Thank you.

Janice Murray: Thank you very much.

Sharon daVanport: [Laughter] Tricia, I know you had some closing words you’d like to say, too. [Pause] Are you able to? I think Tricia’s pretty overcome with some emotion right now, too. [Chuckles] It’s okay, Tricia. [Chuckles]

Tom Murray: Sharon, thanks so much. We really apprciate the time.

Sharon daVanport: Well, listen. I want to thank each one of you again—Mrs. Murray, Helen and Tom—and thank you for being our special guests today, okay?

Helen Murray: Thank you very much.

Janice Murray: Thank you very much.

Tom Murray: Thank you very much.

Sharon daVanport: Okay. All right. Have a wonderful weekend.

Tom Murray: You, too. Bye-bye.

Sharon daVanport: Uh-huh. Bye.

[The Murray family hangs up].

Okay, everyone. That’s going to do it for us today on AWN radio. This is the Autism Women’s Network on Blogtalk. I would like to make for sure that we thank everyone for joining us, and look forward to our upcoming month in October, when we have a lineup that we’re going to be posting within the next week. We will talk to all of you next week, and that’s going to do it for us today. Thank you for joining us here on Blogtalk Autism Women’s Network.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: