Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Thin Red Line: The Thin Red Line Is His Special Smile, the One He Saves for Particularly Spectacular Days, the Ones That Exceed Even His Exceedingly High Expectations

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Thin Red Line: The Thin Red Line Is His Special Smile, the One He Saves for Particularly Spectacular Days, the Ones That Exceed Even His Exceedingly High Expectations

Article excerpt

Justin opens his mouth in a wordless "o" of half-terror, half-excitement, then plunges a body length toward the boardwalk, as usual enraptured by his favorite ride. I smile and enact my "usual", which is to capture that moment of abject fright coupled with fun on film, because he'll enjoy it later when I play these moments back for him on camera. The ride has just begun, so I allow myself the luxury of relaxing just a bit, knowing he'll be engaged for several minutes, as the amusements at this particular boardwalk are actually worth the wait.

I take a step backwards and feel my sneaker crunch what can only be someone else's toes, and I quickly turn to offer my apologies. Thankfully, my victim is also wearing sneakers rather than more traditional summer fare, and she simply smiles and says "Don't worry about it." I see her hesitate for a second which intrigues me, so I keep my torso turned in her direction, and she follows up with a second question. "Is that your boy on the end?" she asks. I say yes, and she responds with "mine's on the other end". I turn back to where my son is being flung around like a jack-hammer, and see a little boy with Downs Syndrome four seats down from Justin, clearly as immersed in the excitement as my boy.

I consider anyone with a child who's differently-abled to be part of my "tribe", so I take a step back and strike up a conversation with her. I tell her that her son is beautiful, and she kindly returns the compliment. With only a minute or two left in the ride we conduct a typical abbreviated dialogue-diagnosis, residence, how our school districts are providing for our kids, and sibling status. It turns out she has an older daughter who adores her son and is a big helper, and I share with her that I have a younger son who is also on the autism spectrum, but mildly so.

She looks at me, this woman with her own Herculean challenges, and says quietly, "Two? Wow. I have my hands full with just one. I don't know how you do it". I reply that wine and getting out of the house once in a while are my biggest helpers, and she laughs as we both watch the blurred row of seats begin its final descent. Justin can lift himself off now independently, so I say good-bye to my newfound friend, wish her luck, and grab my son's hand before he's en route to his next thrill-filled destination. It appears our subsequent adventure will be the tilt-o-whirl, which is wonderful for Justin, and not so good for his mommy. I am already regretting having eaten prior to coming here.

We successfully survive what I've lovingly come to call "the twirling cups of queasiness", and Justin lets me know that he's done for the day by yanking on my hand and striking out in the direction of his waiting stroller. He's certain he'll be the imminent recipient of a salty pretzel within minutes, so his grip is strong, and relentless. Within seconds we're back at our staging area, the carousel, and he is soon sitting calmly in his own personal ride. We acquire our carbohydrates, his doughy, twisted bread and my staple of soft-serve, and then continue with our tradition, which includes a stroll down to the end of the boardwalk and back.

I love these walks, because along with rides in the car they seem to be one of the few moments in my life where I get time to truly process anything. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.