I felt your eyes on me as I carefully removed my 3-year old son from the cart while his two older siblings loudly crowded into our minivan. My youngest son R cannot help me get his body out of the cart. He sits heavily, a dead weight, while I lift him straight up at the hips, struggle to disentangle his legs, and pull him into a cradle hold in my arms. When he was younger this was easier, but the older and taller he gets, the more difficult this task becomes. At barely 5’0 tall myself, managing to lift his body straight up and out is a challenge for me. Feeling the weight of your stare, I tried to hurry up. I hoped I could get him in his seat and whisk us all away before you decided to approach us.
You see, I knew what you were going to say. We were parked in a disabled parking space, and none of us were using a wheel chair, or showed an obvious visible disability. I have read all the stories. Our disabled parking permit is new, but I know what happens to individuals with invisible disabilities and families like mine when we use these parking placards. Inevitably, and by all accounts frequently, someone either approaches to admonish the individual for using the parking space “illegally,” or they leave a nasty, scathing note on the windshield.
I had just buckled R into his carseat when I heard your voice behind me, “Excuse me?” My heart sank. I hesitated, mentally practicing the script I had decided on the day we received the disabled parking placard in the mail: no, I do not have a disability, but my son does. This is R, and he has severe Autism and multiple disabilities. R cannot safely walk 200 feet without assistance, which is the criteria for this parking permit. R must be carried to and from the car at all times, and that is why we use his disabled parking placard. I turned slowly, ready to deliver my lines, and met your eyes. You were an older man, with crisp white hair and a kind smile.
“Yes?” I asked.
“Let me take your cart for you, I’ll put it back with mine, you look like you have enough on your hands,” you said with a gentle smile as you began pushing my emptied cart with one hand while you pushed your own with the other. Stunned, it took me a moment to compose myself and then I was exclaiming, gushing,
“Thank you! Oh my gosh, thank you so much!!!” Staring after you, astonished and touched. You weren’t there to judge me. You weren’t there to question me, or to tell me off. You were just there to help. You may have forgotten us already, but I can guarantee we won’t be forgetting you. Thank you, you make the world a brighter place. ❤