Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Word - Part Two

As we do on many sunny summer days, one afternoon last year Caden and I were making the rounds on our favorite rides at Hersheypark. Caden decided he wanted to ride the mini pirate ship with no hands and asked me to tape it to show The Tank. After waiting in line, Caden buckled himself into a center seat where I had a direct view of him for taping. I laughed as he excitedly greeted the last few children boarding the ride. Then the ride attendant came by for her inspection of the restraints and realized two brothers needed assistance. I heard two women behind me laughing at the boys' inability to figure out the seat belt.

"Look at them! They're more RETARDED than that Special Ed kid!"

My head whipped around and I willed laser beams to shoot from my eyes. The words came from a very tall blonde that I had noticed behind us in line earlier because she was so striking. "California beach volleyball player" had crossed my mind. She appeared to be the mother of the boys and the second woman, maybe a friend or a sister. This second woman saw my glare and her eyes widened as she recognized me as the mother of "that Special Ed kid". The blonde was oblivious and kept laughing at her boys. I wanted to say something. I needed to say something as Caden's advocate. But dang it, I had promised to tape him with his hands held high and the ride was starting. I turned my attention back to my beautiful, beaming boy and began to tape.

A few seconds later, I felt a hand on my arm. I turned to see the tall blonde. Her face was flushed bright red and she was clearly upset as she spoke. "I'm so, so sorry. I don't know why I said that. I have an uncle with special needs. I can't believe I said that. He would be so disappointed in me." She broke into tears as she continued to say she was sorry over and over. People around us were watching our conversation nervously.

Though still furious, I thanked her for having the guts to approach me and apologize. I told her some people don't do that (see my previous blog post "The Word - Part One") so I did truly appreciate her apology. I wanted to go back to taping Caden but she placed her hand on my arm again. I realized she was trying to hug me. I was in no mood to hug it out but she persisted. I really, really wanted her to stop touching me. "Look," I told her, "Apology accepted. Let's leave it at that."

The ride ended and we both moved on to meet our children. Caden wanted to see his video and I was ticked this woman had messed that up. He wanted to try again on more rides but I had lost my Hersheypark happy. The day seemed ruined. All I could think about as we moved through the crowd was how many other people might be saying horrible things about my child but were out of my ear shot. I didn't want to share him with strangers anymore so we headed home.

The next day was another beautiful sunny day. I was determined to make it up to Caden.  We went back to Hersheypark. He rode all his favorite rides again. I took too many pictures and videos and we had an amazing time. The employees are always fantastic with Caden and the other visitors we met more than made up for the rude blonde from the previous day. One girl on the flying swings said Caden was her favorite thing about the park and asked if he wanted to ride again with her. I watched his mile wide grin as the swings took them up into the air. He was in his glory. He had been in his glory the day before too. I was the one that had let a fun day get away from us. I put my sunglasses on to hide my teary eyes as I proudly resolved to always honor that glory, even if others can't see it.

No comments: