Emotionally, we take flight when the strength of our passion exceeds the strength of our blockages; the floodgates open and we are free to feel fully. —Daily Om
It wouldn’t be stretching things to say that I’ve been an emotional wreck lately. I’ve been pushing myself to meet deadlines both at work and at home, and it frustrates me to no end to not be able to meet my goals. I try not to let the reality of my situation—being a full-time single parent—get in the way of what I want to achieve, but the undeniable fact is that it often does. Combine that with my increasing concern over Nigel’s academic/work challenges and his social vulnerability, and it’s no surprise that I’m overwhelmed.
So, everything has been on the surface lately, emotionally speaking. Every day has been like a marathon. This week could not end soon enough. The boys and I got home Friday afternoon, did a bunch of chores, ate dinner, and then Nigel and I went to our local grocery store for a few things. First, we recycled our bottles and cans at those machines that count and crush them and dispense receipts for the deposit refund. At one point, the plastic machine got stuck, and I took a leap of faith and instructed Nigel to go inside the store and tell an employee. Okay, he said, and he went and did it. I had never had him do that before, but he certainly knows how to ask for help while looking for a certain DVD at the video store, so I figured he could do this. Moments later he returned and said that someone would be out soon to fix it. My heart nearly burst. I had no idea how it actually went down in there, but the end result was that Nigel got his point across. A guy came out in a few minutes to fix the machine, and inside I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. Even now, I never take anything for granted. Even the simplest of things.
Afterward, we went inside to wash our hands and do our shopping. Nigel found the DVD he wanted to rent, and it was only fifty cents. Without my prior knowledge, everything I had already planned to get was on sale – the organic butter lettuce, the Virgil’s Black Cherry Cream Soda, the Haagen Dazs dark-chocolate-on-chocolate ice cream bars. I could see Nigel across the store picking out some candy for himself, and even at fifteen, he just looked so sweet. I reveled in feeling my mother-love. It was like this little trip to the grocery store was my gift for having such a tough week. But the best gift of all was yet to come.
We got in line at the checkout counter and put our things on the belt. As we stood waiting, I heard a girl’s voice say, “Hey, Nigel, how are you?” This was not the first time someone had greeted him in the grocery store, and I quickly assessed her. Some kids make a show of saying hello to Nigel in a manner that indicates that they see him as a novelty. Some kids are nice enough, sincere even, but they don’t really understand him. And once in a great while, a kid will say hello to Nigel, and it’s real. I could tell instantly that this girl was real. She was genuine. Just lovely. Nigel said hi, accepted a hug from her (with his trademark stiffness, which didn’t faze her in the least), and then told her, “This is my mom.” She looked me in the eye, and in my ridiculous current emotional state, it was all I could do not to cry. I wanted to hug her. Because I knew. I just knew that she was the type of kid that we parents of ASD kids hope for. The angels that look out for our kids when we’re not there. I felt it with my entire being—she was definitely one of them. And so, suppressing my urge to throw my arms around her, I told her my name and shook her hand and smiled. And I hoped that my smile conveyed my deepest appreciation. Thank you, sweet girl. Thank you for caring about my son. For not only respecting him, but for including him. Thank you for being the wonderful person I know you are.
After our brief exchange, Nigel told her that he had rented The Time Machine. Not only did she say that it’s a good movie, but when he mentioned that it was based on a book, she knew who had written the book (H.G. Wells) and said that she’d read it and liked it! She totally gets him! Then she said a few more things to Nigel as I paid for our items, and she left. Nigel and I picked up our bags and walked outside. “She seems really nice,” I said. “Yeah,” Nigel said. “She’s in my theater class.”
The tears came then, and I was glad that it was now dark. I hoped that Nigel couldn’t see them, because they would be so hard to explain. Hell, I wasn’t even sure why I was crying. Was it happiness? Relief? Why do so many emotions—especially unidentifiable ones—drive me to tears?
In the end, I think I was just overcome with gratitude. Not just because she was so good to my son, but because, at that moment, she was unwittingly there for me, when I needed her most. At the end of a long, hard, emotional week, she was there. She’s not only Nigel’s angel, she’s mine, too.