Wednesday, November 22, 2006

the voyage

My hair, or what's left of it, waved in the breeze. His words flew out of him, he talked of everything. His friend sat silent buttering bread. In minutes I learned that he didn't like Indian food, though he didn't know why, that he wouldn't be singing in the choir because while he believed that Jesus was borne he wasn't sure about him rising again at Easter and if you don't believe one you can't believe the other, that he would probably be staying at the school for the holidays. His friend's parents were clearly tired of the chatter. I found it charming, probably because it still strikes me as cute that a kid has a British accent.

Mom and Dad kept directing questions to their son, ignoring the constant chatter from the other boy. But at each question the chattering child leapt in to provide the answer - along with colour commentary. He reminded me so much of my dog Eric as a puppy. Eric couldn't stand Fred, the older dog, getting attention so if you tried to pet Freddie, Eric would fit himself in between and use his muzzle to push your hand away from Fred and toward himself. There was a desperation to the behaviour that was both cute and pathetic at the same time. This kid was like that, 'pay attention to me me me me' seemed to be the message in every word he spoke.

Then it came out, the kid was cool about his disabilities. He said that he was diagnosed as dyslexic with 'a touch of autism' he said. A joke needed to be made and he made it, 'As an autistic I want the world to be a particular way, as a dyslexic it never can be ... so in the confusion I'm kind of normal.' I almost spit out my veggie burger and started to laugh. They all looked at the table and then decided that I was laughing at something Joe had said and they returned attention to their own table.

What a cool kid, I thought. But his parents didn't, he was visiting his friend for the weekend because he didn't go home much. They must have been clear about their disappointment in him because he said, straight up with no hint of emotion, 'My parents don't bring me home much because my disabilities bother them.' His friends parent exchanged glances that said, 'Boy do we get that.'

Whoa, I don't get it at all. He was cute, bright, articulate, what's to be ashamed of. Hell, if he was hairy faced and six legged, if he's your kid, you love him - that's the deal. It's in the contract. Loving a kid with a disability doesn't make you special, it makes you a parent.

His parents are sailing to India for the holidays, he's not welcome on the voyage. Like the unicorn, left behind by the Noah and clan, the trip will be less beautiful because he's not there. Today, as we drove through London looking for our hotel, we saw an elderly mom with a 30ish man with Down Syndrome, they were laughing as they walked together. I'm betting that she didn't expect to have him along on the trip and I'll bet his company makes the world brighter for her.

The chatter went on, non-stop, until the food arrived. He slathered catsup onto his steak and silenced as he ate. The silence was deafening. His presence was dimmed for a moment. 'What a light' he casts, I thought.

Well here's to the dyslexic autistic in all of us. I want the world to be a particular way, and I can't make it so. Though it makes me normal, it also - sometimes - makes me wish for an extra unicorn or two in the crowd.


Anonymous said...

"Loving a kid with a disability doesn't make you special, it makes you a parent."
Can I quote you on that? Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving.

Lily said...

Welcome back, Dave. I was going into CTF-withdrawal! But this one was worth waiting for.

Let's hear it for all the unicorns of the world... and happy to be one.. (well, happy to be one except during hunting season!)

Anonymous said...

David, I wanted to ask a couple of things after your talk today (at Culham) and wondered how best to contact you. Also do you know how the person taken ill got on?
I am pleased I was able to attend. I don't know how this works but if this gets through I'll send my e-mail address once I know it works. Best wishes, Alan.

P.S. I spoke to you briefly about potential at the start of your lunch break.

Dave Hingsburger said...

I got word this morning that the woman who had the siezure has recovered fully. I don't wish to put my email address on this blog so why not contact the organizers of the conference and get my contact information from them. Sorry for this but I want to have some small control over the amount of email I get. If this doesn't work for you, write back and together we'll figure out how to contact. Dave