He asked me to buy him a gift card so he could buy food later on when he is hungry again. So we walked over to the rack and he picked out a Giant Eagle gift card. He asked for other ones but I just couldn’t. We went to the register to ring it up and I explained how to use it. I put $25 on the gift card and the cashier asked if I wanted any cash back. I had them give me $25 cash back. I gave it to the bare handed man and asked him to please buy himself some gloves and a bus ride to the shelter. The last thing he asked was to have the receipt so “when the police stop me, I can prove I didn’t steal this”.
He told me again that he wasn’t lying. I told him I knew he wasn’t. He turned to walk away and he stopped and looked in my direction as to say “Thank You” but didn’t. What he did said more than a simple thank you. He showed me his eyes again for a brief moment before he turned around and left. I stood there completely heartbroken as I watched my son Gavin walking away into the cold. I was beside myself with grief. How could someone I didn’t know have such a profound effect on me?
I just couldn’t shake just how much the bare-handed man reminded me of Gavin. I tried to finish the shopping I had to do but I couldn’t remember anything I was supposed to get. I walked up and down the aisles on “autopilot” doing everything I could not to burst into tears. I got to the end of the store and realized I still had an empty cart. All I could think was “how does that happen”. I was smacked in the face with reality. Someday I won’t be here to take care of my kids. What if this happens to them? What if they are the ones wiping off a windshield with their bare hands and almost getting run over by someone who clearly doesn’t care.
I screwed up grocery shopping. I just couldn’t focus on anything. I got what I could remember with what little I had left and drove home. I was completely lost at that point. I just couldn’t process what had just happened. All I could think about was not allowing this to happen to my kids in the future. The horrifying truth is that someday I won’t be here for my kids and I pray they are never in that same situation. I truly hope that if they are, someone will show them kindness and compassion. These are my babies and I get sick to my stomach thinking about what their future holds.
I got home and unloaded the groceries and was in the kitchen with Lizze. I wasn’t going to say anything to her about it but I had to because we already were struggling and now things were going to be even tighter and she deserved to know why. I looked her in the eyes and told her what had happened. I just sobbed and sobbed on the floor in my kitchen. I couldn’t control myself or keep my emotions in check. That has only ever happened to me when I watched Lizze give birth to our kids. The past few days have been rough because I just can’t seem to get past this. All I can think about is my kids and their future. My heart has been broken and I live with the reality that this could be one or more of my kids in the future.
This has been very difficult for me to write. I’m still very emotional. Most parents will never know this fear but I do. Parents of special needs kids live with this indescribable fear each and every day. I wanted to share this story because we CANNOT allow this to happen to our kids. Please help me spread Autism Awareness. I don’t care what it takes but the world needs to be better. These people NEED compassion and understanding. My kids need your compassion and understanding… Please give them that much, I beg you….
I also published this article on CNN Health. Check it out by clicking the CNN logo. I rewrote the article so that more people, especially those unfamiliar with special needs parenting could relate. The article collected 37,000+ “Likes” and counting.
Please check out the follow-up post to My Broken Heart. It’s a look back over the past year since this whole thing took place. See: Life After My Broken Heart