This is another guests post by Jeff Stimpson.
My son Alex (13, PDD-NOS) and I are in a new neighborhood supermarket for chicken spice, a chicken, lemons, beer (for me), frozen beans, assorted stuff. Then two guys, both taller than Alex and one with a Mohawk, loom into sight. They’re eating hamburgers. Who eats hamburgers in a grocery store? In my opinion as a seasoned New Yorker they’re just kind of looking for trouble. One of them bumps Alex near the milk and doesn’t say “excuse me.”
In the chips aisle they’re with a woman. Their mom? She’s muttering about snack food and doesn’t seem to understand that these two boys have noticed Alex and that one of them seems to be prancing and flailing his arms like Alex. Alex doesn’t notice, which breaks my heart. I notice. One of them wears a Snoopy T shirt. “Are you Snoopy?” I want to ask if it comes down to a moment that will become a Daily Newsheadline. I’m almost 50 and tired of people strutting through life believing they can screw with people like Alex. I wish I felt another way, but I but I don’t.
People have started to notice Alex. Little kids look at him. Kids his age look at him. Are they future special-needs workers or future grown-ups who’ll want people like Alex put somewhere far from them?
I scan for Snoopy as Alex and I shop. “Alex, we need lemons,” I say, and we kind of do and kind of don’t and we back toward produce, against the tide of the store. Who shops in the direction we’re shopping? Snoopy T does, apparently, because he appears out of the chips aisle and heads directly for my shoulder. I’m a grown up. I weigh 185 pounds and Snoopy doesn’t. I don’t care. My shoulder meets the boy’s and I feel it give like dough. Should’ve hit him harder, I think. Should’ve sent into the beer until the glass of the bottles shattered under him.
We get our lemons.
Then they’re at the register. “Alex, hand me stuff,” I say. He does; a deep black part of me hopes that Alex handing stuff to me also keeps him out of sight of these guys. The one with the Mohawk and the Snoopy T is at the gumball machines. He twists the handle. He twists and twists, and I wonder, Does he have autism?
If he does, I owe him an apology. (What kind of city kid wears a Snoopy T shirt?) If he doesn’t, I owe him a harder shove. I wish I knew. I wish I felt another way, but I don’t.
Jeff Stimpson is a native of Bangor, Maine, and lives in New York with his wife Jill and two sons. He is the author of Alex: The Fathering of a Preemie and Alex the Boy: Episodes From a Family’s Life With Autism (both available on Amazon). He maintains a blog about his family at jeffslife.tripod.com/alextheboy, and is a frequent contributor to various sites and publications on special-needs parenting, such as Autism-Asperger’s Digest, Autism Spectrum News, Fatherville.com, and The Autism Society news blog.
– Lost and Tired
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