His face was full of concern.
He just happened to come to one of my lectures here in B.C. One of his son's 'workers' mentioned the training and he decided, on a whim, to come along. He sat at a table a couple in with a few staff who seemed a little uncomfortable to have him there. Almost like he was invading their space, intruding on time that was theirs. One of the staff grimaced almost every single time I made a joke, or used any kind of 'cuss' word. She'd glance at him in fear and then at me in reproach. But this was a tough old goat and, as he wasn't worried about anyone's sensibility, laughed a lot during the whole thing.
At the end he stood in line to speak to me, brushing away the staff who suggested that they all head out for coffee. Finally he was standing in front of me, he glanced around, found a chair and sat down. 'I like to look a man in the eye,' he said by way of explanation. 'I heard all the others ahead of me asking you questions, I don't have a question. I want to tell you something.' I relaxed back in my chair. He had, in a simple gesture, honoured me, and I was ready to hear what he had to say.
'My son has Down Syndrome,' he says. 'He's lived with me his whole life.'
I nodded for him to continue.
'I was thinking while you were talking that maybe I made a mistake ...'
I started to say something reassuring, but he brushed away my attempt at kindness.
'No, no, let me say my piece.'
'He's a good boy, my son. All his life, I've taught him to do what he's told. Now, I think the problem is, he does what he is told. I didn't want him to be a problem to anyone, and the problem is, he'll never be a problem. I already see him get left behind because he'd never complain. Other kids, I call them all kids ...' he smiled looking at me, 'I'd call you a kid. Anyways, other kids who act up if they don't get what they want, well I see that they get what they want. My boy gets what's left over. He's a good boy. He does what he's told. I made a really big mistake.
I didn't know what to say. I said that.
'I'm not asking for any advice. I just want you to make sure you tell other parents, of young kids, not to do what I did. I raised a good boy, I should have raised a strong man.'
'It's not to late,' I said.
'I think it is,' he said.
'I beg to differ. Inside that boy, is the man he wants to be. Many of us, disabled or not, wait for the day our parents greet us as adults. When that happens it changes things. It's not to late to start.'
He paused to consider, and conceded to think about it by saying only, 'Maybe, maybe ...'