Thursday, April 9, 2009

19. Secret Agent

I had a brush with Down syndrome at the grocery store the other day. I was waiting in line to check out, and a young boy with DS was in line with his mother in the next aisle. At first he had his back turned to me, but somehow I instantly knew he had DS. As his mother was paying, he turned around and saw me and my cart piled high with food. Apparently it sang a siren song, because he walked right over and announced that he was going to help me. He pushed my cart back and got between it and the register and started unloading it with an eagerness and determination I rarely see from a cashier. To be clear, he was not an employee, he just really wanted to help. It was touching and comical and sort of profound for me – I felt like I could be looking at my own son in 15 years. Moments like that tend to hit like a punch in the gut in way I can't fully express in words.

Anyway, his mother finally saw what was happening and rushed over to convince him to let my cashier handle it. She apologized to me and thanked me for being generous enough to allow him to handle my food. I tried to tell her it was absolutely no problem, and I smiled a big smile and watched them walk away. The boy hugged the manager as he walked out.

So here's the interesting thing: I wanted desperately to tell her she had no idea how much I understood, but I didn't really know how to tell her that my own son has DS. I just couldn't fit it into that brief encounter. I looked for her as I walked out of the store, still not sure what to say but wanting to say something. But I didn't see her.

On the way home I tried to think about exactly what I should have said. I settled on "It's perfectly alright, I have a son just like him."

As I thought about it later, I was struck by how often I now feel like a secret agent - no one knows my true identity. It's irritating that we DS parents can't identify each other when we aren't with our kids. We need a secret handshake or something. Maybe I'll invent one.


Lonnie Bruner said...

Excellent post. Thanks for keeping up with the blog.

Amy R. Niblock said...

You will always be my sweet boy. You are the same now as when you were growing up, such a kind and loving person. You are the perfect dad for Ozzie-he is so blessed, but I also know that he is the perfect son for you.


Michelle said...

Dan, I can't tell you how glad I am that I know you and that you are my friend. And I want Ozzie and Zane to grow up knowing each other and being friends, too. We shall be planning a trip soon to see you!

Tara said...

LOL! I want to learn the secret handshake, too!!! I no exactly what you mean. Sometimes, I want to shout it to the world that my son has Ds, and sometimes, I'm happy to remain in my anonymity.

Tricia said...

Hi! I found your blog through a friend and I just had to comment. I have a daughter, Georgia, who has DS. She is two and a half. Today I went with her younger brother (7 months) to our annual DS picnic sans Georgia. Because she was sick her dad stayed home with her and Rainer and I headed to the group because I wanted to see some other folks--parents--that I only get to see a few times a year. The whole time I was there, because I did not have G with me I kept feeling like a secret agent. I could see people who didn't know me doing doubletakes on my son--"Does he have...??? No.... What is she doing here??"

I might just be paranoid. But that's how it felt. And yes...the random public meetings...I still have a hard time figuring out what to say, though I AM compelled. :) Look forward to reading your blog and feel free to swing by mine if you are so inclined.

Kelly said...

Great term "secret agent". To be honest, I never let an opportunity pass to make a connection. Every parent I have spoken too was so happy to have the chance to chat. How often do you think they feel at liberty to share their child with the world in a braggy kind of way? I have found out about more opportunities for my son this way too. Special Olympic events or training, therapists, reading programs, sports programs, music programs etc.

Anyway, great blog you have here and I look forward to visiting again!

Chrystal said...

Hee! I've had a post drafted that's very similar to this one for like, hmmm, 6 months maybe?

You've inspired to finish it up and post already. Hopefully this week.

Ria said...

LOL! I love the secret handshake idea. But I do like the response you came up with on your way home. I may use that too one day.