Don’t ask Nathan Zimbrich who, when and why.
He can’t answer such abstract questions.
But he can fill his family’s Plainfield home with beautiful strains of classical music on his harp, tell you more about Martin Luther King Jr. than most people and recreate the works of Van Gogh and other great masters.
For his parents, Christine and David Zimbrich, life with Nathan, 8, has been both extremely difficult and extremely fascinating, she says. And Christine says they wouldn’t change the sweet, always happy boy they once thought was just "active and odd."
"I don’t think there’s anything wrong, he’s just different than everybody else," she says. "… He’s so wonderful."
Yet Nathan, who has autism and hyperlexia, is very conscious of wanting to be just like the other kids in his second-grade class, she says. He spends his days trying to mimic their behaviors and trying to keep up. But by day’s end, the anxiety of trying to fit in makes him physically ill, she says.
Although the family has tried sports, Cub Scouts and all the other typical childhood activities for Nathan, none of those things took. Even the kids in the neighborhood won’t let him play with them because they simply don’t understand him, she says.
When he needs to feel safe, he seeks out mom, his translator.
"I know it’s going to be a hard road as he grows," she says. That doesn’t stop the family from loving Nathan for the person he is or doing everything to help him become more self-sufficient.
As a treat for being good, mom and son often head out to fuel Nathan’s latest obsession: dead end roads.
Though Zimbrich can’t get him to explain the obsession, she’s determined Nathan’s life won’t become like those roads.