Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Letter to the Starer

Dear Older Man behind me in line,

I get it.

He's loud, he's all over the place.  He's too big to be acting like that.

I get it.

And I get that when I smiled and tried to help things by explaining that he's real excited, you couldn't understand why (although I'm still not sure why a snarky "about what?" needed to be added to your disapproving glare).

I get what you couldn't see.  That his sister and brother were in the play part of the waiting room, and I wanted to get back to them, but needed to pay attention to the lady at the desk.  He was loud and hummy and stimmy, but he was happy.  I spend so much time with him when he's not happy that it's hard to remember that his happy is still unacceptable to the outside world.

Oh, if you saw his unhappy... I shudder to imagine your reaction.

I also get that I don't know where you were today and what you've done and what you face when you leave.  Your wife, friend, or family member in the wheelchair in front of you likely takes a lot of care.  So in a way, it's a possibility that we have more in common than you'd think.

It looked like maybe you wanted to protect her from Ryan.  So I joined you, although there was plenty of space for you to back up, in making sure Ryan didn't inadvertently sit in her lap.  When you moved closer, both of you still glaring, it was pretty obvious.  Still, I kept him between my arms at the counter so that he couldn't ping around the room.

When his sister was being weighed, I saw you get up when you figured out who it was behind you, turning to stare more at the sideshow.

I thought I'd managed to ignore the things that happened.  To let them roll of my back, if you will.  But then we made it to the room and about halfway through waiting for the doctor, I caught myself shushing the kids more than usual.

I felt my head tighten.

I caught myself panicking.

What if he was causing you a problem?  How would I take it if he brought it upon himself to actually verbalize what he thought, like that viral letter?

Then, it dawned on me... the kids are being great.  They're not arguing, they're playing alongside each other.  It's a small room, yes.  It's loud.  But they're being great.

While it hurts to be stared at, studied, and have people assume that since my son has visible issues, he's fair game to be used as entertainment or as a landing pad for others' judgement, I'm doing my best.

Ryan's doing his best.

Richie and Maelynn are doing their best.

We're out there living, exactly like we're supposed to be.  You're out there living too.  All I can do is trust that you're doing the best you can, and hope that someday you'll find that so much goes on below the surface.

And I will continue to work to rest in the fact that Ryan is who he was made to be.  I'm doing what I can... and I can only trust that you are doing what you can, too.  And not let fear of your opinion make me feel shame.

Because that shame is heavy.  The fear that people will think... or worse, share that they think... I'm just a horrible parent is not fair to Ryan or Richie or Maelynn.  Or me.

I hope you had a good day.   I know that once I remembered how little your opinion means in the grand scheme of the day, I did too.

Thanks be to God, for the millionth time, for Ryan. 

1 comment:

  1. Ouch, this hurts, especially when you mentioned that horrendous letter. Not to stereotype, but it does seem as if the older generation is less understanding and knowledgeable about things like autism. And really so often it is lack of knowledge that leads to that kind of rude behavior.


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