The call came just as I’d started my car, jarring me from my thoughts of whether or not the rash on my eldest son’s legs was just prickly heat (it was) or something far more dire. I turn off the radio and tell Justin we’ll be on our way soon, then glance down at my cell to find my other son’s school is calling me.
I answer with fingers crossed I’ll not be picking up a second child and hear the calm and measured voice of his assistant principal, the wonderful administrator who used to be Zachary’s case manager for his child study team, a woman in whom I implicitly trust. I take a deep breath hoping it’s not bad news (really, the rash is enough for one day,) and am rewarded with not just good, but stellar news.
Zachary has been awarded his school’s caring award for the month. And not only has he won an award, it appears at his school’s gala his mom unknowingly won him lunch with his lovely assistant principal.
Thoughts of Atlantic City flit happily through my tired brain.
There are other monthly awards given out for other admirable character traits, and to say I was surprised to hear he’d been selected this time would be disingenuous, as caring about others is a responsibility Zach has always taken seriously. I thank his assistant principal profusely, knowing full well his teacher would not have picked him if he didn’t merit the accolade, and settle back into my seat to hear her query.
It seems the luncheon he won comes
with a snack of his choice and a friend; however, in this instance, my son has
asked to invite four of his closest friends, and thankfully his AP has offered
to widen the luncheon field for him. I
tell him he’s allowed his forbidden fave of Cheetos for this (he will be
delirious with joy, I smile in anticipation of the telling,) and thank her for
allowing him to bring several buddies.
After a reassurance that he’s doing well we disconnect, and I once again engage my engine and head toward the pediatrician’s (an establishment once upon a time I swear was our second residence,) and smile.
My son with mild autism won the caring award. He had trouble deciding which friends to pick. To quote from one of my favorite Jack Nicholson movies, “this is as good as it gets.”
As I ease onto Route 70 I
allow my mind briefly to brush memories of Zach six years ago when we were
under autism’s siege, battling chronic diarrhea, sleeplessness, constant GI
issues, and perhaps most unsettling, the loss of almost all of his precious
words. I recall permitting myself
fleeting moments where I’d hope for an outcome like this one, my boy happy,
healthy, and safe, then remember pushing down that hope because it was too
painful to bear if it was not realized.
I eagerly envision today’s scenario, my boy being told of his twofold bounty, the gleam of triumph in his eye, the broadening smile taking over his face. I hope he’ll talk about it with me (not a given now that he’s a “medium boy” and in first grade,) then return my focus to the road, listening to Justin rock out to Bruce as my vehicle rocks in unison.
So much has been made of autistic people not having empathy, not caring to be engaged. While I know it may appear that way for some (and frankly is true for some of us who don’t have autism as well,) I know those facts often touted in scholarly articles and lectures don’t apply to my child. His empathy knows no bounds, and my seven-year-old son craves friendship as much (or more) as he craves those Cheetos.
I pull into the tightly wedged space in front of our pediatrician’s office, and permit myelf to relish the last few minutes.
My boy with autism was picked for the caring award.
He can’t decide which of his many friends to have lunch with next week.
And I know without doubt the breadth of the smile on my face matches his.
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