Susan's Blog

Monday, October 13, 2008

Something Else

“He looks just like you,” the woman said to me as we stood on line at the Dunkin’ Donuts. I was having that lumpy, bleak, empty feeling I get when I’m taking Nat back to his House, which was why I was delaying that moment at the Dunkin’ Donuts. The cloying coffee smell did not make me feel any better.

“Yeah, a blond Me,” I mumbled.

“How you doin’?” she asked Nat.

I prompted him to answer. “Nat, she asked you how you were doing.”

“I’m good,” Nat replied. I patted his arm, waiting for that awkward moment when she or her daughter to would notice Something Else about Nat.

She turned to me and said, in a lowered voice, “Is he autistic? My mom worked with autistic people, so I’ve been around them all my life. They’re human like everyone else, you know.”

I bristled a little when she said that but then I could see her eyes tearing up, and her tone was loving and warm, so I realized she only meant this kindly and reassuringly.

“I know,” I murmured, smiling at her and at her teenage daughter, who had been staring at Nat. I could see that I did not have to worry about what her stares might turn into once she took a gander at Nat bouncing around and flapping his hand, whispering to himself. I adore him the most when he’s doing that, because then I know he is happy and comfortable; but others often don’t see it that way.

This woman did. We talked for awhile (the line was long). I really liked her. She told me that her Blue Cross Blue Shield, where she worked, had hired several autistic people when they had graduated from Nat’s school (nearby). I never thought I’d say this but, “Hooray for an insurance company!!” This gave me alot of hope that Nat, too, would be able to hang onto his job once he left his school in three years. They already love him there, because he is so thorough and complete in his work.

She got her coffee and left, shaking my hand and saying it was so nice talking with me. When it was our turn, the woman behind the counter shouted, “Next!” I spoke up, ordering Nat’s blueberry muffin for him, as I always have done his whole life.

The guy at the cash register must not have realized we’d already been helped, though. “What can I get you?” he asked Nat.

“Blueberry muffin,” Nat answered before I could.

“Great job!” said two voices at once: mine and the woman behind the counter.

I smiled at her, realizing that she probably knew him because this was likely the Dunkin’ Donuts-reward mecca for his entire school. Or maybe she knew Something Else about Nat, and she, too, had a clue.

“How you doin,’ Buddy?” she asked Nat.

“Good,” he answered.

“Great. You take care,” she said to him as we walked out.

I left with a full heart and a tight throat because I could see that Nat really does take care of himself, and just as wonderful, many unknown others take care of him, too. That Nat. He really is something else.


Susan, this is a great post. Your mention of enjoying Nat most when he is happiest really, really resonates with me. I need to do a better job of remembering that when Boo is doing his various stims, he’s just being his happiest self. Thanks for that reminder today … I needed that.

— added by Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy) on Monday, October 13, 2008 at 5:04 pm

I find it is such a wonderful unexpected joy when we meet someone in public who “gets” our kids!

A friend recently took her son to an all inclusive resort that had pre-set “shared” dinner seating and she was terrified. Turns out that the woman they were sharing with was a special ed. paraprofessional and her teenage child who were delighted to take the boy for walks! 🙂 — Cathy in CT

— added by Anonymous on Monday, October 13, 2008 at 7:51 pm

Isn’t it funny when they totally show us what they can do much to our surprise?

I too “bristle” when someone asks me if Casey is Autistic, even though sometimes you can tell a mile away!

— added by Bonnie on Monday, October 13, 2008 at 9:22 pm

Thank you for sharing this one.

— added by Someone Said on Monday, October 13, 2008 at 9:27 pm

This was a great post! How can anyone not fall in love with thats contagious smile and energy! GOod for him ordering his own muffin!

— added by Anonymous on Tuesday, October 14, 2008 at 5:42 am

Hooray for both of you. I don’t mind at all when people ask me if Jared is autistic, it lets me know that people are becoming more aware of ASD’s, whether through family experience or through the media. Big boy is doing better in stores and other settings, I love watching him hold the door for others, and seeing him get pleasure (and praise up the wazoo!)from a selfless act.

Lovely post. Lisa

— added by Anonymous on Tuesday, October 14, 2008 at 11:03 am

Hurray for Nat! How wonderful it is to take them somewhere and everything is just fine and the people that you meet are understanding. I had a great weekend with Punkin Also. We took a trip to Wal-mart and did not have a melt down. It has been so long since we have beeen able to take her. I was so Proud! Your twin in Alabama

— added by Anonymous on Tuesday, October 14, 2008 at 12:23 pm

rgSusan, here’s a story from my past and it’s long so if you want to delete after reading that’s okay.
When my son Matthew was about five or six, he and I were at the local farmer’s market. I was making my selections and not paying attention to him, but I was beginning to notice the young lady working the checkout was watching Matthew. When I went up to pay for my purchases she stated to me “I hope you don’t mind me asking, but what’s wrong with him?” My answer was “I don’t mind you asking at all, this is my son and he is autistic.” Her answer was “the reason I ask is that my neighbors child behaves exactly the same way and they (his parents) are always spanking him, all the time. Well, I was horrified to hear this and told her that he was probably autistic; it is very common and sometimes hard to diagnose. I then gave her my name, my phone number and anything else I could think of and BEGGED her to have her neighbor call me. So, I have never taken offense when anyone has asked me about my son or his autism. I have only heard a few unkind things and autism is so common what I really hear now is usually positive; it seems that everybody knows somebody who is dealing with autism. But this was one episode has always stayed with me, and I pray that wherever this anonymous child was he hopefully received the attention that he deserved.

— added by Sharon L. on Thursday, October 16, 2008 at 5:27 pm