I remember being in the tenth grade and starting to take the very beginning steps to that all excepted society of great importance, being in a sorority. Sisterhood to this only girl in a house full of brothers, was something I not only wanted, I needed it. I needed acceptance, I needed the sweater sweetly tied around my shoulders and I needed that pin. Isn’t it funny, I could run into one of these past friends today and stumble to remember her name. For a while there, being a part of sisterhood was critical. I guess, like all things this was a part of preparing me for adulthood, just not the form of adulthood I thought I was headed for.
During Christmas break John and I took his Dad to get new glasses. The minute I walked into the frame store, I noticed a young Mom sitting at a consultation station. A little boy about seven or eight sat across from her and in her lap sat a busy toddler. The toddler had Down syndrome. The Mom turned quickly when the door opened and looked at me. I reached behind me and took John’s hand to lead him to the area of the store where Dad was waiting for us. The Mom looked at us then broke out into a huge grin. Ah yes, without a word she knew that we were members of the special need parents club. For John held in his 21 year old hands, a large cardboard toddler like book, a copy of a well loved Veggie Tales book. No words needed, it was quite apparent John was not neuro typical despite his good looks and swagger.
A new pair of glasses later, John commandeered our little family to a big loud, crowded restaurant. Despite having to wait on a table, then wait for it to be cleaned, John was happy, he was in his element. He sat with his chair turned toward the heart of the restaurant, putting his people watching skills to work. He twisted, he grinned, he spotted a family with little children. I am not sure who saw who first, but John locked eyes with a happy little preschooler wearing purple sparkle tennis shoes. John’s face lit up as she waved at him. Her Mom turned around to see who she was waving at. As soon as her eyes landed on our table her stressed face melted into a big smile of joy and she nodded. Again, one special needs Mom to another. Downs preschooler meet uniquely challenged young man. Mom knew, why else would our table be littered with a dog eared book, Thomas the Tank Engine toy and a twenty year old happy meal toy found and bought earlier in the day at a thrift store.
At the end of our meal we stopped by to speak to the family. Not because we were one special needs family to another, but because the adorable little girl couldn’t eat until her curiosity had been satisfied. Not only had she been drawn to John, she had been confused by the man at our table who looked a lot like Santa. We said to the parents that tired old line, but it’s true, enjoy them while they are little, you blink and they are grown up. They commented on John’s sweet smile and we parted, linked once again in a sisterhood, a sorority of a different kind, but connected still the same.
Clubs, sisterhood, brotherhood, ties that bind. When you become a part of the special needs parents club, you don’t need a special sweater or pin to show who you are, you have a bigger and better prize, your child. I don’t think about that often, but if you were to ask me, I would proudly pull a photo out of my wallet and show you John, and tell you how excited I am to meet you and hear your story as I welcome you into unexpected joys found in the society of special needs children and adults.