It was the last evening before the world was plunged into uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As people gathered at the Magical Meat Boutique in Mount Dora, a sense of impending change hung heavy in the air. It was a night for one last beer in public, one last chance to simply go out.
As Don Middlebrook sat back in his chair, one figure stood out to him — Zack, who was sitting by his sister Leah, engaged in sign language.
Zack, who does not hear or speak due to ectrodactyly, a rare disorder, was in his element, oblivious to the world’s turmoil.
“Zack was hugging everyone,” Don says. “As I sat there and I watched, I thought to myself, ‘We are about to be locked down but we can make it through this because look what he has been challenged with and how he has made it.’”
Compelled to capture the experience, Don approached Leah and asked if he could write a song about the moment. She enthusiastically agreed.
The result was “Uncharted Waters,” a tribute to Zack’s strength and the deep bond he had with his sister.
In time, Don shared the song with Zack’s mother Connie Behncke, who realized its significance and helped facilitate a meeting between Don and Zack. Zack’s understanding of the song became apparent when he met the songwriter. Zack and his family embraced the tribute with joy.
“It’s a wonderful chance to tell the world what a brave soul he is and what wonderful support he has with his family,” Don says.
Zack is a cherished figure in Mount Dora, where he’s often seen hanging around town and at One Flight Up, where he washes dishes.
The chorus of the song reminds us of Zack’s inspiring journey: “In uncharted waters, that’s the way he lives. In uncharted waters, every day’s a risk. With the love of his sister and a hug and a kiss, in uncharted waters, there’s nothing he’s missed.”
For Don, the song carries a profound message: “And if you think the world has done you wrong, remember Zack will never hear his own song.”
The full song can be heard at donmiddlebrook.net.