This true story is about a mom named Cheryl and her two boys on the autism spectrum. The oldest has Aspergers, the younger was severely damaged by vaccines and also has cerebral palsy. It took place about 14 years ago when Cheryl was two hours from home, dealing with her boys after a big disappointment. Her son, Eric, was 11 years old at the time. Her son, John, was 4.
The story is a bit longer than my usual posts, but it will definitely keep your interest! So, PLEASE.... take the time to read it! You won’t regret it...
You Deserve a Break Today
I walked out to the van where the boys were waiting with news about meeting Dad. Rain started to fall making a cold day even colder and my spirits as damp as the day. I knew Eric would be disappointed that his Dad was not joining us, and I was not looking forward to handling John alone in a strange place where nobody knew us. At least at home, even though people didn’t understand, they had grown familiar with seeing us around town. People who worked in the local restaurants knew us and had compassion.
I drove around looking at the layout of fast food restaurants. I knew I needed a place with a back door where I could come and go without John having to pass a crowd of people. I knew I needed to be in the back left alone to cope with John and not be bothered or bother others.
A McDonald’s fit our needs perfectly. Eric was not happy as his Dad had promised we would eat at Back Yard Burgers, but I knew that was not a place where I could slip in and out with John. I promised Eric he could still go there when we picked up his Dad and the two of them could go together. For now, I needed to feed John and pass some time
I went through the drive thru and placed our order, two happy meals, extra order of fries, nothing for me. My job was to hold and feed John.
“I thought we were going to go out to eat but inside!” Eric said as I pulled into the drive thru.
“We are, it’s just I can’t hold John, carry a tray of food, juggle paying and all, so this works best. We will circle the building, and go in that back door, sit down and eat. If we need something, we will be inside.” I spoke as I dug for change to pay the lady at the window.
This plan worked well for a few minutes. I managed to get both boys in and the food in one trip and find a table in the far back. To help John cope with the noise, lights, and general atmosphere, I placed him in my lap backwards so that his face was facing mine.
Eric sat across from us and kindly opened both Happy Meals and placed John’s fries and chicken nuggets in a location that was easy for me to reach.
Rain pelted the glass window beside us and I leaned back in the bench and breathed a sigh of relief. John was quiet, and eating one fry after another. Eric was happy talking endlessly about a book he had been reading and ideas he had. I felt normal and happy for a few minutes, like a normal Mom out with her kids.
I relaxed and looked around and then back down at John’s sweet face. I looked back at a happy Eric and thought to myself, this must be what it is like to be a Mom with normal kids out to enjoy the day.
It didn’t last long, our perfect world shattered when John ate his last French fry.
I tried to switch to chicken nuggets and he was having no part of it. He tossed his head backward and slammed it forward into my chest. His blow knocked the breath out of me, and the next sound I heard was John’s ear piercing scream as his head went back a second time.
“Fries, hand me fries NOW!” I said as I struggled to hold John back from falling back into me a second time.
“MOM, gosh, they are MINE! You said I could have extra! Make him eat his chicken, I ate mine,” Eric said as he handed me one fry.
“So help me son, this is not the time or place to argue over fries, I’ll get you more in the drive thru. But now I can’t move, and I have to keep John quiet in a public place. Come on, hand them over. Once he is quiet and no longer stiff, I can move and we will leave.”
John grew quiet and turned around in my lap once the fries were within reach. For a minute, things went back to happy. So happy, I grew confident that I could make a mad dash to the counter for more fries and maybe even a sandwich for myself. “Do you want to go order some fries?” I asked Eric.
“No, I can stay with John. We will be okay. He is happy, and I can feed him. You go get what you want.” Eric said as he reached for a fry to hand John.
I weighed the situation for a minute. It was a straight shot to the counter and back. If I timed it where there was nobody at the register, I might just pull it off. I stood up and stood beside the table. Eric’s plan was working; he was handing John one fry at a time, and John was taking them from him and eating slowly. I looked over my shoulder at the counter; the last customer was walking away.
I held my breath and started walking backward, eyes glued to the table, when I was about seven steps from the counter; I turned around and turned my back on the boys for the first time. No screaming. This was going to work! I was actually going to walk up to a fast-food counter and place an order alone!
My heart was beating fast, and I found it hard to breathe. Yes, I am a normal Mom. I can order food and pay for it and wait for and carry it……
I turned quickly when Eric yelled, “I can’t hold him!”
John had slid out of the seat and was on the floor. He looked like a puddle of jello, he was so limp. Eric was reaching under the table trying to catch John who was strangely quiet, but moving. John stood up and headed straight toward me. I leaned down and spread my arms to catch him, when out of nowhere, John reached up onto a table and pulled down a cheeseburger, took one bite and dropped it to the floor, all this without stopping and still headed right into my arms. I was horrified as the burger rolled across the floor. Now I knew why John had screamed at the chicken nuggets, he had wanted a cheeseburger.
The burger belonged to a well-dressed business man who had a news paper spread out on the table and was sipping coffee. Out of the corner of my eye I had seen him unwrap the burger when I was walking backward.
“I am so very sorry, I’ll pay for it.” I said breathlessly as I walked back to where the man was sitting. To my surprise, he was laughing, big hard fully blown belly laugh and shaking his head no. When he finally caught his breath, he reached up and touched my arm.
“I am sorry, I am not laughing at you or your son. It’s just he was so quick, and caught me off-guard, it’s nothing, really, I don’t want you do buy me one or pay for that one. I didn’t need it, I just bought it to have, my wife will be thrilled I didn’t eat it. You have your hands full, let it go. It made my day, I was stressed at work and came here for a break, and boy did I need to laugh. Thank you for making my day.”
He stood up and began to clean up his area. “Go on now, it’s okay, really, I need to get back to the office, and you, you need to get back to your son.” He smiled at John and chuckled again as he walked over to a trash can.
I slipped back into the booth with John in tow. I was embarrassed for having left John for a minute, and yet, knew if I had picked him up to carry with me to the counter, he would have screamed violently. It was a no-win when it came to trying to know what to do or not to do when you had to navigate the public with John.
“Mom, what about the fries?” Eric asked.
“You have got to be kidding me. Let’s just finish up. You eat John’s nuggets and we will do the drive-thru. We got off lucky, don’t press your luck son.” I said as I hugged John close.
I looked out at the rain and listened to John hum and thought about how lucky I had been that the man had been so understanding. Suddenly the silence of my thoughts was interrupted by an employee holding a tray full of food.
“Your order.” She said as she sat it down on the table.
“NO, NO, NO, not mine, quick before my son gets that!” I said to her.
She put her hand on her hip and looked a bit out done. “Listen lady, you are the only Mom with two boys back here. Now this is yours.”
“But I didn’t order it. I didn’t pay for it.” I argued as John reached for the tray and began to slap the food.
“Yea, I know. That man did, that guy in the suit. He said to tell ya, thanks for the laugh, and take time for yourself to eat, does that mean anything to ya?” She said as she started to walk off.
I bowed my head and whispered to nobody in particular, “Yes, it means the world to me.” This stranger, who had been watching us, saw I was not eating and had bought my lunch.
The tray contained two cheeseburgers, a coke, large order of fries and ice cream for us all. In one minute my faith in humanity was restored and I knew that no matter how hard the days, God had everyday angels watching over us. The rest of the day went smooth just because I knew, someone did care.
Thankyou, Jenny and Cheryl, for allowing me to share this story. We may never know what a small act of kindness did for someone, but the receiver will remember it forever. .