A few months ago, Bean and I took a trip to Trader Joe’s. It is about an hour away and so I packed the cooler with 5-pound bag of ice.
While we were on our way, he asked if he was going to the store with the parrots. I said, ‘Yup, they’re painted on the wall.’
Little did I know, he thought for some reason, we were actually going to a pet store that ALSO had parrots (real ones). As soon as we get to to TJ’s, we grab a teeny cart and start toward the entrance.
We are in for about 2 minutes and all of a sudden, Bean is crying and saying, ‘ It’s not right’ as he is scanning the walls and the grocery shelves.
“I want the green house.” “Where are the parrots? It’s not right. It’s not right. This not the store.” In crying and hysterics, the “more” sign in sign language is his only way to communicate when ‘all systems are down’. It only occurs in times of extreme excitement or overload.
I am beginning to sweat.
“I don’t see parrots…I don’t see parrots…”.
Shoppers are looking our way as he is completely in the middle of his meltdown. I say, “We’ll leave in a minute…hold on, okay?” It seems like whatever I’m saying is falling on deaf ears.
It’s the point of no return. The point of no return that I used to anticipate more frequently. Today, a trigger went unnoticed. And I am blindsided.
I push the cart down the aisle, eyes only on Bean because I can’t stand looking up and seeing the judgment on the faces of those around us. All the while, I’m trying to not cry because I’m tired, I’m sad because he is incapable of self-regulation a lot of the time he seems helpless from an assault I cannot see that is in the form of his senses and his mind.
I also forgot my shopping list.
I finally look up and catch a woman who is in our aisle, looking at us. I turn away as if not to notice. Next thing I know, she looks at him and says, “Hey! Why are you so sad? This is such a fun place to be at!” She says this as if never having witnessed the entire meltdown. He looks up at her and she stretches her hand to meet his– to hand him a balloon.
She extended a hand into the world only he and I feel so alone in sometimes.
His crocodile tears are streaming down his face. She says, “Would you like a balloon?” He takes it and I’m actually almost crying again in disbelief.
She didn’t judge the meltdown that could be heard throughout the store for a full-on 5 minutes (that felt like 45)?!
She placed a hand on my shoulder. It felt cathartic. She had no idea.
But she did. She looked me in the eye and said, “I used to be a teacher.”
What I heard was, “I understand.”
She gave the warmest smile I didn’t know I needed. It gave me a surge to keep on going– as an advocate for my child, to not give up, to fight for the things that a child cannot fight for, to keep wading through the red tape, to keep fighting to get accurate diagnosis’ because as of today, my son has four, to keep going because he is mine. To keep going because he is not in this world by accident…
To keep pushing the cart, knowing there will be better days ahead, that in a sea of icy stares and unspoken words, there is at least one person who understands.
Who might even hand your child a balloon and give yours the air it needs to soar again.