I’m becoming adept at jumping through government hurdles in every attempt I can think of to get help for Our Boy. I’ve had more visitors in my home on official business than I’d like, but whatever it takes to get him what he needs. The questions have become such a part of our routine these days that I can answer them by rote. The latest “advocate” is a young mom, close to my age. We settle at my cluttered kitchen table and I apologize for the state of my kitchen. It’s a work in progress. She responds as the others do, “Oh, don’t worry about it! You should see mine!”
And so it’s down to business. The questions pass quickly until we come to what I think is the most frustrating: “When did you first notice his symptoms?”
“Right after his 18 month MMR vaccination. If I were a conspiracy theorist…” My thoughts end in a shrug.
“Oh, I refuse to give my son that shot. I went a few rounds with Dr. X the other day. He didn’t seem too happy about it but I told him if he had to talk to the parents that I do he might think differently of it.”
The questions continue and we get thrown off topic as I wince and answer yes to all of the horrible things that Our Boy is at risk for. Elopement. Abuse. Sexual abuse. Abduction. “Is he at risk for taking off in public?”
“Oh, yes. For now he can ride in the cart but he’ll outgrow that.”
I don’t know how we get on the topic but soon we’re discussing the comments of the general public. “Do you get a lot of comments?”
“Well, I had a harder time with it around the time that he went through testing and diagnosis. I learned to avoid Kroger on Senior Day because too many people would try to engage him in conversation, ask about Santa Clause. He looks older than he is. These days I really don’t care what a random person in the store thinks.”
“Just wait,” she says. “Just wait until somebody walks up to you and asks you why he can’t talk yet.” It’s the worst thing, I guess, that she can think of.
I shrug. “I don’t have time to educate everyone that we come across. If they seem to really care about a response, I’ll give them a straight answer. If not, it’s easy enough to walk away.”
She seems surprised that I don’t care what strangers think.
“The only time that it matters is if they decide to make a hurtful comment. People assume that because he doesn’t talk or doesn’t look them in the eye that he isn’t listening or that he’s stupid. The effect on him is what matters to me. Not educating the public.”
We move on.