I was out with Gene earlier this evening, taking our daily walk along the beach path. Gene, like many folk with Down Syndrome, has a sluggish metabolism and like many folk with Autism, he has an obtuse attitude toward eating in a healthy manner. This is precisely why my pet name for him is Buddha Boy. So one of my goals this summer is to incorporate more regular exercise into our lives. I call it 'Operation One Less Chin' and if all goes to plan I could well lose one of mine too. Some days he loves his walks particularly if there's a stiff sea breeze, as the wind in his face factor seems to delight him. Other days, not so much, and it's a bit of an ask to keep him going. On these occasions I get in front of him and walk backwards. For some reason this inspires him. Either because he can see me fully face on and therefore can walk happily toward me, or he realises I look like a fool when I do this and making me appear to be a total idiot is one of his primary motivating forces.
We were strolling along in this unique manner this evening when we were approached by a woman whom I'd noticed earlier sitting with her family in the grassy picnic area adjacent to the walking path. She seemed about my age, similarly in need of attention to her cuddliness, and sporting a wide friendly smile.
As she neared she called out, "I hope you don't mind but I had to tell you how you've brought back so many memories for me." Then she pointed back to her family group which I now realised included a grown man with Down Syndrome who was grinning and waving at us. She said, "That's my boy. He's twenty-two now and still as stubborn as a mule." I put out my hand and said, "I'm Carolyn." She ignored my proffered hand and instead gave me an enormous hug and told me her name was Sue. We chatted for a brief time and ascertained that we both lived locally. Soon though Gene started grumbling heavily about the inordinate 'waiting' that was going on, so I explained we'd have to get moving quickly or I'd lose his cooperation altogether. She told me her last name, the street they lived on and asked me to look her up and call whenever I wished.
Telling a friend about this lovely encounter later I realised that in those few moments this woman had blessed me with many things; her understanding and acknowledgement of my struggle, an insight into a future that may not be so bad afterall, and an unconditional offer of friendship. How amazing is that?
Very few of us will ever find a six foot white rabbit leaning on a lamp post on the corner of 18th and Fairfax. But we should still be alert for the other miracles around us. Like the Angel I met today at Suttons Beach .