Wednesday, November 12, 2008

An epiphany of sorts

One day, many years ago, I was in the waiting room at my local rehab center waiting for my kids’ therapy appointments to begin. It was always a bit of a triumph to sit and wait out both of my kids’ appointments. I would schedule their OT and speech on the same day and have their sessions (or try at least) to coincide so that one child does not have to sit and wait for the other to finish, or at least for very long. Twice a week I would be there with my two young autistic kids waiting in the waiting room for this sort of “marathon round” of appointments. I would be there for almost two hours in the waiting room, myself.

On this one particular day, this one woman, who I had seen only once before, was waiting with her kids—and as I noted, she only had one child who attended therapy—as did most. She approached me while I was waiting out the ten minutes for my kids’ therapies to begin (but seemed like an hour with my two). I was in the middle of the crowded waiting room and trying not to pull my hair out (or worse, cry) because my kids were always so unruly in contrast to the other kids. I could tell that she wanted to say something to me and then finally conceded and said, ever so wholeheartedly, as in holding her hand to her heart while disclosing her ever so humble thoughts standing in the center of the crowd, “I can’t believe what you do! And for the first time I don’t feel bad about my situation. Thank you for making me feel so much better about my life.”

Oh, yes she did.

Now you might be thinking that my next few thoughts were something like: I was so shocked and dumbfounded that I just didn’t know what to say to her; can you imagine the audacity, the rudeness? How self-absorbed she must be and totally uncaring about my feelings … let’s face it, she just insulted my kids.

But, no. On the contrary, I smiled and agreed. You see I knew this woman’s state of mind—as I know the state of mind of almost everyone who has an autistic child. We are all "one" in this waiting room, even though very few people would admit to it or even talk about or ask about another person’s child (the autistic ones that is). I think we just kind of knew about the lives of our female, and some male, counterparts, so why go there. We talk about the weather, the other classes that our kids are in, the schools that they attend, but let's not go any further, shall we. It is a strange but unspoken rule …

So when this woman said this to me, I smiled because it was true and I was glad that she had this epiphany—of sort, and when she went home that evening I imagined that she would have had this very same discussion with her husband, Hey, Hun, we’re no longer in the crapper with our kid, because I’ve just met someone so much worse off than we are … Yahoo! And break out the champagne; we are free and more normal than we think!!

I was thinking that perhaps that was my job. To push her reality into a power and knowledge that she was not as bad off as she had once thought. And if she can be happier and a better friend, mother, wife because she saw my (much harder) life up close and personal, then Wow, I’ve done something wonderful here, and didn’t even try.

And just think how nice, thoughtful, caring and special she was to let me know it, because I imagine that there were quite a few people who looked at me and my life and thought, Phew, at least we don’t have a life like hers.

1 comment:

Tanya @ Teenautism said...

It's a good thing that I didn't know any other autism parents back then, because if someone had said that to me I would have just cried right then and there. You are far more gracious than I am!