Make My Day

Driving to my son’s school — Cardinal Cushing Academy on Boston’s South Shore — to pick him up for a weekend can be an ordeal.  The 135 miles from Bath to Boston’s Tobin Bridge are a breeze.  Then you dip under the “Big Dig” and the trip turns into a crap shoot as one is subjected to Boston’s infamous traffic for the remaining 25 miles.  I invariably find myself wishing we had given consideration to some North Shore options.

Of course, as soon as I make eye contact with him and he delivers his monotonal “Hi, Dad” — Regardless of whether I last saw him a month ago, it’s as though I have just returned from a quick errand to the store for a quart of milk. — it’s always more than worth it.

Anyway, this time I shot down on Thursday in anticipation of the big February storm.  Having just endured a classic SE Expressway snail’s pace, I simply wanted to get Harrison, get his stuff, and steel myself for the return trip — the same gauntlet in reverse — before the snowflakes started to fall.

Then while getting the necessary OKs with the appropriate staff members, this one teenage girl caught my eye and started frantically motioning me to come over to her.  As we approached each other I could tell that she had considerable difficulty with verbal expression, as do many individuals with autism.  As I was trying to read her lips, she thrust a twice-folded 8-1/2-by-11″ sheet of paper into my hand.  I unfolded it to reveal the colorful drawing you see here.

She tried to explain.  I tried to understand.  But I could not make out the words.  Then her teacher interpreted what she was trying to say: “Harrison has been such a kind and thoughtful friend to me here at school that I wanted you to have this drawing that I made.”

Wow… One of those special moments when the whole parenting thing, so often an off-key orchestra, comes together like a beautiful symphony… “Oh yeah, parenting can be cool!”

After 15 years of living up close with autism, the whole thing remains a mystery.  Early on, I heard someone say, “If you’ve met one kid with autism… you’ve met one kid with autism.”  Ah… Yup.  (Talk about snowflakes!)

At first, you want to pull them into your world.  Then you learn to appreciate theirs.  One thing I’ve learned to truly admire:  They seem to be a people void of pretense.  While their directness can catch you off guard, it can also be a breath of fresh air.  That girl made my day.

As we pulled out of the school driveway, I asked my son, “So, do you like Cardinal Cushing?” He replied, “Yes, Dad. I do.”

“I do too, Bud…  I do too.”

Onward,  Malcolm Gauld