My cell phone rang, it was my oldest son Aaron. “Mom I just saw us, not us as we are today, but us, like life used to be.” He said in one quick breath, I knew he was trying hard not to cry.
“What did you see?”
He took a deep breath, let it out slowly and told me about his encounter. “Well I went by the library, you know to use the internet, and it turned out to be the first day of summer reading program. You remember how much fun that was, we signed up to read dozens of books, got stickers and book marks; someone was on hand to tell about the program. I always loved that day. And there I was, all caught up in watching a little boy who was about seven or eight, so much like me at that age. He was asking the librarian questions and he was so excited he couldn’t stand still. Remember how I used to bounce when I was excited, he was just like me. Then I heard that sound. Just as I was looking over at him and smiling and remembering being eight, I heard that ear piercing scream that shook the fiber of my very being. The little boy began to panic, I saw panic cover his face as he glanced around and began to talk even faster. The scream came again, and I saw him jerk, I saw his face twist in disappointment as he reached across the desk for a book mark.”
“It was his sibling that screamed him?” I asked quietly.
“Yea, I turned to see his Mom at the door, oh she was so young and yet so old at the same time. She looked about my age, and yet, she had bags under her eyes that packed in years of hardships and hurt. She looked tired and stressed. She had a little girl in a stroller, and that little girl could and did scream exactly like John used to. I had forgotten how hard that was until I heard it. That poor little girl was having a melt down and her Mom was trying to hold her and keep her quite, but it wasn’t working. People were staring, some were laughing, a few remarked that she needed to wear that screaming child out and give her a reason to scream. But I knew, I knew it was autism.”
“She called for her son to come on and leave, that Sally was having a melt down and that they had been there too long.”
“What did the little boy do?”
“He turned to go, hurt and disappointment on his face. I heard him ask when would he count, when would his needs be important and when would he have just one day to have a normal life again.” I heard Aaron voice crack a bit as he spoke.
“Is that it?”
“It was and it wasn’t. As the boy walked behind his Mom, I could hear her telling him she was sorry but that this was the way life is. I wanted to run after him and tell him I understood. I wanted to tell him that life was unfair for him, for Sally and for his poor Mother. I wanted to tell him that he would be a stronger person someday, a long time from now. I wanted him to know this is not the childhood his Mom had planned for him or for his sister and that she would give her own life to make either of theirs better.”
“How do you know that?”
“Because you would. You would have given up anything to give us the childhood you thought we would get when we were born. I know that now. I know because you gave up your life for us as best you could. Like that Mom sleep deprived and hungry herself, you did without what little peace you had trying to give me the best in life. I know that now, but when you are eight, you don’t. All you know is what you are living, and the rest of the world is not having to live life like you do. This is the only childhood that little boy will get and already he is living a life that is just not fair. But you know what, a lot of people don’t get what is fair, I know that now. I know some don’t have a home, I know some never had a father, I know some went to bed hungry, now I know that, but not back then.”
“Why didn’t you go after them?”
“Because I didn’t know how. I just froze. All of the sudden it was me and we were at the library and John was in meltdown mode and I was the one having to leave and go home. It was like the twilight zone or something. I didn’t want to look like a creep either. And I was crying. I was crying for that little boy, I was crying for me and I was crying for a childhood that was so hard I didn’t want to remember much of it.”
“Feel better now?”
“Yea actually I do. I know that little boy will find is way, his life, his path and he will be a survivor.”
“How do you know that?”
“Because it happened to me and I found my way, I live my life and I am a survivor.”
“Yes you are son, you really are.”
“You know what Momma? You are too….and so is John. We are all survivors. We made it, we are on the other side now.”
“Yea, yes we are son that we are.”
“If there is a next time with that boy, I’ll tell him, I’ll tell him that he will make it. I’ll tell him to cut his Momma some slack because she is tired and this is not the life she thought she would be living either. When he asks me how I know, I’ll just smile and say I used to be in your shoes.”
“I think that would be nice son, I think it might help.”
After I hung up the phone I thought about how other children are now in the same shoes Aaron used to stand in. I hope some day they stand in the ones he wears now, because they are the shoes of a survivor and a winner. A winner who has learned life is not about wanting what you don’t have, but rather about what you do with what you do have. I am proud of both my grown sons, and how they have both over come so much. Most of all, I am proud of how they teach others just by living their lives as positive examples through an ever changing world of hurt, loss, recovery, perseverance, and optimism.