The first weekend after my son was diagnosed, I ran away. I ran as far away from my new reality that my shattered soul could take me. I went to my parent’s cottage. I spent three days in one room with my two boys. I ate a wad of cheese and endless carbohydrates while I stared at the walls with my legs tucked up underneath me. I was numb. I didn’t want to do anything or feel anything. The fear was massive in my peripheral vision. I was not ready to face it. One room with a baby gate and comfort food was still safe. I just wanted to stay there, but I had to go home.
The drive did not go well. At this point I had not slept for days. I was running on empty. I had never felt more lost or lonely or helpless in my life. Not far into the journey, my infant son began to cry. I sent him a half-hearted, “You are OK honey.” Each moment that passed was taking us closer to a world I couldn’t even begin to fathom, and my anxiety was mounting. My mind was whirling with frozen dreams and personal recriminations. I began to get frustrated listening to the baby cry. I just wanted him to fall asleep and give me some peace. As the miles continued to roll by, a new sound suddenly penetrated my hazed and distracted mind. The crying had turned into an odd gurgling noise. Starting to panic, I exited off the freeway as fast as I could and jumped out to see what was happening. My baby, a sweet, fat pile of three months old, had slipped down in his car seat and the chest buckle was lodged under his chin, choking him as bubbles streamed out of his mouth and nose. I had forgotten to clip his belt between the legs. As I pulled him out of the car into my arms, I began screaming at the top of my lungs. I was holding him to my chest with my head thrown back bellowing, “I’m sorry! I am so sorry!” As I stood there on the side of the road, my heart throbbing as I begged for forgiveness, a white Cadillac pulled up behind me. Two women got out of the car and approached me. They were wearing matching white Ralph Lauren cable knit sweaters. Without a word, the first woman calmly removed the baby from my arms and walked away. Swaying gently amongst the flowers and grass just off the highway, she sung to him and snuggled him close. The other woman took me in her arms. She just took me in her arms and held me. She held me hard and rubbed my back and stroked my hair. She murmured reassuring things. She told me everything would be fine. She rocked me. I sobbed as I clung to her. I wept out the weight of my heart. I remember how badly I needed her, this stranger. I needed someone to support me as I felt my pain. I needed additional strength to buffer the white-hot fear. I don’t know how long it took before I was finally able to peel myself away from her. When I did, I saw that her beautiful sweater was rumpled and tear-stained. While her friend returned the baby to the car, now asleep and securely clipped in, this lovely angel gave me one final hug, touched my face with a soft smile, and walked away. They got into their car and left without another word.
I don’t know if I told them what was going on. I might have. Maybe I poured the whole story all over that perfect sweater. Words were not what I remember about that day. It was the kindness and care that was offered without hesitation or need of an explanation. It was a gift born from two warm and generous hearts, a gift that started the healing of my scared and tortured soul. So, I got in my car and made my way back to my new life. To this day, I wish I could thank them.
Colette Evangelista is the mother of two boys, one who is on the autism spectrum. Her family’s journey has evolved to a place of total acceptance, where judgment and agenda are bested by love and boundless opportunity. She has written a positive social story entitled My Autism, which is available on her website www.everyonehasautism.com. It is also available at Amazon, Follett, and Create Space Direct.
This article was featured in Issue 53 – Working Toward The Future