While we walk to the picnic table to deposit all of our supplies, Connor is a model citizen. That soon changes however when he sees that the table cloth and the cake have fire engines on them. He is directed to some sand a few yards away and a disaster is avoided. My girls are resuming their posts of second and third Mothers to make sure their brother is occupied. I think it is partly because they still want to play a little, and the idea of sitting and talking with the elders is less than attractive.
The birthday boy is very small for his age. I had seen him before when my cousin was new to being a mother. She had been worried then because being in a family that has always packed a few extra pounds, a breast bone that protruded the way his did, had never been seen. He has her eyes, big warm brown eyes. On this little person they melt you.
In no time I start to take notice of a few troubling things. He has no words and barely babbles. When he is offered the whole cake, he doesn't dive in but after getting icing on his finger pays more attention to it than the cake. I think to myself that maybe having an autistic child I am reading too much in to this, and I have no idea what he does at home. He doesn't walk yet, he doesn't make any attempts to cruise, he is much happier being carried. We call his name over and over again, most times we do not get a response.
Thinking about the call I received from her about a month ago, I start to feel like an ass. She had asked so many questions about Connor's autism. What made us get him tested? What was it about him that made him autistic? So many questions that I was glad someone would ask instead of assuming, but the depths of the questions made me feel she was trying to find out if she wanted to even invite us to her son's party.
I see she is getting tense and while they try to get his attention for a picture she tries to catch my eye. I give her my best "great party, thank for inviting us" smile. She does finally corner me however and asks me what I think. All I can tell her is I am not a professional, it took me till almost 3yrs of age to find out what was going on with my own son. I advise her to talk to her doctor about problems she is concerned with and warn her that at this stage of development they may not do anymore than say "All children develop differently and at different ages."
I then tell her about the early development program that Connor was in, that they may evaluate to see if he qualifies for any services. I also assure her that he just turned 1 it may be too early, next month he may get up and walk across the room. He may get his first word and second word, etc. and she will remember when he use to be so quiet.
I then have to answer my cell phone it is that boy again. "Hello."
"Hello?" he answers
"Hello." I say again and deciding I must have a bad connection I hang up.
As I put my phone back in my pocket I see Connor has left his Grandma in the dust and she is having the worst response possible.
"Connor! You get back here!" She squawks. He turns to look at her, now thinking this is a great chasing game he speeds up. I start into a sprint, he is so far away from me that the possibility of him getting to the road before I get to him is very real. I don't believe I have ever ran so fast, even as a teenager, I know my legs had never given me the speed they granted me at that moment. My heart also blesses me, as I don't think it bother to beat until I had reached Connor and with shear speed, knocked him to the ground.
Words tumble out of my mouth that I had no control over "road bad" "hurt" "cars". My brain isn't working through the problem as fast as the rest of my body is and I curse myself for not knowing the correct things to say to him. The magical words I need to make him understand that if he goes into the road that he could get hurt, ran over by a car, do not come into my vocabulary. As my heart resumes beating and trying to escape my chest, Connor is mad that he got scolded and decides I am the wrong doer here. He tries to smack at me, I hold his little hands and hang my head in defeat. Mom comes over quietly and takes one of his hands and together we lead him back to the party.
The feelings I had sensed earlier in my cousin were the same I felt at that moment; concern, fear, exhaustion, uncertainty, and appreciation for a little understanding and a helping hand.