My family and I went to the Walk for Autism Speaks 2014 event this morning at the historic Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. We've gone the last 4 years. We've never had a team, but show our support for our community. I've even had the pleasure of meeting some of you there in years past.
This year was a little different. We brought Jack's in-home ABA therapist for his last session. We will miss her (as well as his other therapists... which I wrote about here). It was nice. We took advantage of the resource fair, said hello to some old friends, said good-bye to our therapist, and ate some crappy food from the vendors.
(Jack says good-bye to his last therapist)
For a few minutes, Jade and I split away from Jack, Julie, and Jennifer. I took her to the bounce house before it was too crowded.
Nearby, trying to stay out of the spotlight, was a woman with two boys. They were in a double stroller and were too large to still be in a stroller. I assume they were twins and were 8 or 9. They were both melting down. One crying and one thrashing.
Mom was obviously crying behind her over-sized sunglasses.
I spend so much time writing about our children fitting in and belonging among their peers. The resource fair at an Autism Speaks walk is a great place for our children to be who they are. Nobody looks twice at the child wearing nothing but a swimsuit, or the child talking to himself, or the eight children tracing the parking lot fence with their fingers.
It's home. It's safe. It's them.
For us, too.
I stand in-line for the bounce house and watch a grown woman cry. I take my sunglasses from my hat and put them on, because I don't want her to see me tearing up for her. Her boys are nowhere near the only children here having a "tough time". I feel empty and helpless for her. And I turn my head to not stare.
One by one, women walked by... other mothers, therapists, young girls perhaps on the spectrum themselves... None of them stop and stare.
The first, a woman in her 50s, places a soft hand on her shoulder and moves on. A young therapist gives the mom a hug. A child exchanges a smile with her.
Finally a man around my age walks by her. He places a hand on her shoulder and leans in close and says something to her. She gives a half-hearted smile and wipes a tear from behind those sunglasses. He touches her shoulder once again and walks away.
My mind races with all the things he could have said. He could have said something like "You're among friends", or "You're safe", or "We've all been there". And I smiled.
Jade finally got in to the bounce house. And the Mom calmed her boys enough to move on. As I watched her walk away I thought about my community. I thought about my peers, not my son's. I thought about how nice it was that so many people touched this Mom... with respect, not condescension. I was proud. I was proud of my community and my family. I thought of how often I read blogs about a kind word that was said, or a mean word that was said, or a dismissive glance given, or a disdainful scowl, or an empathetic smile.
And I realized the man that spoke to her was only a few feet away from me. He was watching his son in another bounce house.
"Excuse me. What did you say to that Mom?"
A wry smile emerged from his rugged face.
Fuck yeah you do.
Home Sweet Home.