I've always been fascinated by people's reactions to Owen. The first few years brought their share of blatant idiocy. And there were some really sweet moments.
What I've noticed is that most Mommies of typical kids don't say anything. And hardly any Daddies do.
I get it. Maybe guilt that their kids are 'normal'. Maybe unsure about how to approach the issue. Whatever. I get it.
So last week at the playground, I was pleasantly surprised by Meat Head Guy. You know the guy. Black Harley shirt with the sleeves ripped off. Cut off denim shorts. Several tattoos. Shades.
His little girl was playing with Bea in the sandbox and Owen joined them. Meat Head didn't hesitate to ask about Owen:
How much does he hear?
Does he sign?
Does his sister sign?
Where does he go to school?
He was as curious as you'd expect a child to be. And listened intently to my explanations with the excited smile of a child. He apologized for asking so many questions.
I reassured him, no apology necessary. His inquisitiveness made my day.
As did the reaction from a girl at work the other night. We'd only worked together a handful of times, but hit it off right away. She's smart, funny, sarcastic, bitchy. Kindred spirit.
We were chatting about the start of the school year and I'd mentioned where Owen's school was. She didn't understand why he went to school so far away;
"Oh. He's Deaf."
"Oh! Co-. I'm sorry I was gonna say Cool..."
"No! Cool is awesome. Cool is perfect. I love Cool. So much better than 'I'm sorry' or 'It's a shame', that shit pisses me off. He IS cool. Cool is perfect."
And she asked the usual questions and I gave her the usual rundown.
And the next morning, Bea and I were in the check out line at WalMart. In front of us was a beautiful boy, fourteen years old I'd say, with sandy hair, big blue eyes and a generous sprinkling of freckles. The first thing I noticed was that he was beautiful. Like stop and stare beautiful.
As I stared, I took in the whole boy; a bit of a far away look in his eyes, not talking, always smiling, and keeping in constant contact with his mother.
He'd thread his fingers through hers, stroke her arm, nuzzle her chest. Always smiling. Mommy smiling too.
My best guess about this boy? Autism.
Mommy noticed me noticing them. Without Owen in tow, she couldn't recognize me as a card carrying member of the Mommies Of The Especially Needy.
I didn't know how to tell her that I got it.
So I just smiled a smile that I hoped conveyed that understanding.
And as we stood waiting, as he hugged his Mommy, and as he stroked her arm as if she were his favorite pet, the softest thing he ever felt; I wondered if Bea noticed that there was something different about this boy.
"Mommy? You see that boy?"
"Yes Sweetie, I do."
"He really loves his Mommy."
"Yes he does Sweetie. He really does."
And the Mommy noticed.
And we smiled.