Figuratively, not literally. But there wasn't much of a difference in terms of how I felt.
I try, more often than not, to make light of life with Josh. Because there's a lot that you just have to laugh at. Otherwise you'd never survive or if you did, you'd be chronically miserable.
As hard as it is when he's acting out when we're in public, even though I know people are staring, and I can imagine what they are thinking, I can deal with it. Just set myself on auto-pilot, focus on the task at hand, and get done and out as well as we can. And it is hard, make no mistake.
But it has been rare, and perhaps I've been lucky this way, that any adult has ever said anything harsh or insensitive, to or about us, within earshot. The last and most memorable time was 8 or 9 years ago.
The boys are on Spring Break this week and my father has been very sick, so I am taking them up to Vancouver so we can visit him and my family. We had some errands to run today in preparation for the trip, one of which was to take the pets to the vet to board while we're gone. This is always a challenging task, as it involves a lot of logistics, arms, trips back and forth to the car, blah blah blah. Our vet is wonderful, but I suspect they have the smallest parking lot and waiting area in existence. And they were busy today. And when I say busy, I mean, there was standing room only in the waiting area, there were dogs and other animals everywhere, people trying not to stand on each other or their pets - and then there was me. With our chinchilla cage, dog, two bags of supplies, Zach and Toad (my nickname for Josh). I checked in, but you have to wait for a tech to come and get your pets before you can leave. So, we waited.
And waited some more. And it was hot. And smelled like wet dogs. And Toad was not at all happy about having to stand in one spot doing nothing. So he got upset and started to act out. He was humming loudly, occasionally yelling, and pinching both Zach and I pretty fiercely. I tried to keep him away from Zach as much as I could, while still holding Buddy, who was REALLY trying to make friends with all of the other dogs in the room. But we were stuck in a corner. Occasionally Toad would get away from me and go hit the window. I'd pull him back and hold him some more, all the while he was fighting with me.
The tech finally came out and started collecting our things... yay... only one little catch. Chewy (the chinchilla) hasn't had a check-up within a time that they would be comfortable with keeping him near the other animals, so he needs to be seen by the vet first. Oh. Umm, ok, well (all the while Toad is pinching and yelling) do we have to stay while this happens???
Oh. Awesome. Really, really fantastic. Ok.
I can do this, but man is it crowded in here, was all I could think. Seriously, it was a little bit like being stuffed in to a large elevator. So I continue to try and manage the Toad, who is REALLY not happy. He slips free and hits the window again, I pull him back, just focusing on trying to hold him and not get too hurt by the little, bionic, pinchy fingers.
There is an old man beside us. Someone asks him if he's ok. He answers, "Yeah, I'm fine, but I think someone needs to put HIM in a cage." Him. In a cage. He was talking about Josh. In a cage.
The words are still echoing in my head. My head snapped around to face him, this person, who'd just suggested my son needed to be caged as though he were a wild animal. I stared at him hard for a minute. This made him turn away. Coward. If you're going to say something like that OUT LOUD about someone, then you'd better damn well be prepared to face them.
When I thought I could actually speak, I told him very calmly that Josh was autistic and that meant he had a hard time in situations like this and he couldn't help it. All he said was "oh" and turned away from me again. No apology. Nothing but a turned back.
Ignorant, coward. And no, I do not accept his age as an excuse.
The tech came back out to let us know that Chewy was good and we could go now. Finally.
As we were leaving, a young woman told me that she was going to have to move her car so I could get out (I told you, the parking lot is the smallest ever) and I thanked her as we walked out together. When we got to our cars, she stopped and said, "for the record, I think you handled that very gracefully. Not everyone feels like Grandpa in there." I thanked her for saying that, and we went on our way.
The funny thing is, I'm not angry about what he said. As heartbreaking as it is, I can actually understand from the viewpoint of someone who's never been exposed to a person like Josh before, how it could look like he's just a wild animal when he's upset - because that's very much what he's like.
It was just so hard to hear it. Out loud. In front of everyone. I saw the look on Zach's face and that's what made me angry - that man had hurt Zach saying that about his little brother. Josh had no idea what he said and didn't care. Zach did though. And the fact that he would say it, right at us, but then turn away and not even make an attempt at an apology when I explained it to him, that, made me want to snap his suspenders so hard his grandkids would cry.
My son, does not belong in a cage.
Originally posted on my blog 4/4/11
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