Close up Hands Tea x

Sit a bit and hear some observational stories I’ve been steeping.

Heroes, heroes — everywhere.

This summer I get to attend an event called Comic-Con.  It is a convention, hence the word “Con” — tho’ the double meaning is not lost on me, seeing how it was my Viking Beau who has talked me into going.  “Comic” – well, that has nothing to do with that funny puppet guy in Vegas.  Comic-Con is all about comic books and the characters that star in them, more Vader than Fator, if you will.

Having never attended Comic-Con, I’ve tried to imagine what it will be like, roaming miles and miles inside the San Diego Convention Center surrounded by people in costume, pretending to be their favorite heroes.  I plan to wear very dark sunglasses, as I have no Poker Face, and do not wish to alarm the wandering princesses and warlords.  I’m a small woman, but I have big eyes (the better to observe you with, my dear) that are bound to expand in an expression that borders on shock and confused at the sight of a grown man dressed in tights and a cape or a little kid dressed as a Klingon (rocking the whole receding crazy-hairline and seriously furrowed brow).  Yeah.  I don’t want to subject the unsuspecting innocent to my scary visage.

The only reason I have this convention on my mind at all (besides needing a full six months of emotional prep time) is that I have the good fortune of seeing heroes everywhere I look.  One person called it my “superpower” – but I know that they’re easy to spot, if you’ll only open your eyes… and heart.

Last week, my son met one of his heroes, now one of mine, from the Otis Elevator Company.  One of the by-products of autism is that those affected have extremely specialized interests and once interested in something, have a laser-beam focus (and one-track conversation) applied to that subject.  For my guy, that subject is elevators, Otis elevators, to be specific.  Since he was knee-high to the call buttons, he was fascinated by elevators.  Initially wanting to ride each and every elevator he saw, he eventually decided that Otis was his hoist of choice.  His limited communication has allowed him to describe only a few of the reasons he loves Otis, which includes (but is not limited to) the way they craft their control panels, the way the doors operate and the ease and quiet of the lift – it all just sings to him.

It turns out, that Otis also has one of the best safety records.  This I know because I accosted a man wearing a patch that said so on his sleeve: Otis 1st in Safety.  I approached him on a boat during a whale watching trip (which was more like Whale Pestering, if you ask me, but that’s another blog for another time) and asked to take a photo of his patch.  He managed to stammer that it was okay, but his obvious surprise led me to quickly tell him the long, rambling story about my boy and his love of all things Otis.  He started to look for a business card, stating that I could contact his office about maybe acquiring a couple of Otis items, but realizing he probably really didn’t want a crazy woman walking about with his information, I gave him my card instead.

A week later, his wife sent an email inviting us to their house to pick up a box of Otis items.  I re-read it.  Twice.  They’d invited us to their house?  An invitation from one stranger, to another stranger, to their… home.  Who does that, in this day and age?  I’ll tell you who.  Heroes.  That’s who.

Apparently, this man with the patch had gone back to work on Monday and told them about my son and his quirky passion.  The employees rallied and filled a box with all things Otis: hat, t-shirt, sweatshirt, water bottle, pens, key fobs, flashlight, pamphlets and more.  As we stood in the home of our new friends, my son’s eyes grew larger in response to each item he pulled from the box.  He could not have a received any better gift.  After a lengthy look around the Otis repair van parked outside, we said our farewells, exchanged hugs and drove away – my son (pockets now also filled with elevator parts) proudly wore a bright yellow hardhat emblazoned with the company logo and his new pal’s name written under the visor.

It has been over a decade since my son was diagnosed with autism and it was around that time I developed that superpower I spoke of earlier, the ability to see heroes.  I’ve seen them everyday since –

  • Paul, the man who runs the local hardware store that serves as the special education bus stop where each and everyday his customers walk through an army of kids who stim, shout, have self-abusive behavior and inappropriate or pervasive speech.  Paul more than allows this, he welcomes it, with a smile on his face and love in his heart.
  • Vicki, the Physician Assistant who got right down on the floor and conducted my child’s entire examination when he was too fearful to sit on the table with the loud, crinkling paper.  She didn’t even flinch or complain about coming down to his level, insisting it was the right thing to do.
  • Kim, that first babysitter who, despite the nuclear screaming and flailing tantrums, sat for my child, so I could get out of the house to do… anything.
  • The educators and bus drivers who were willing to employ the disciplinary system that I knew would work best with my child, knowing that I understood his “wiring”, and then happily cheered with me when it turned out to be successful.
  • Dr. Ivar Lovaas (world renowned autism expert) who called my home and laughed when I told him it was like getting a voicemail from Elvis.  He patiently listened as I told him about the home-based therapy I’d been doing with my son (since waiting lists for assessment and programs took too long) and then asked me if I wanted a job.  He gave me permission to continue plowing the field and assured me I was going in the right direction, planting appropriate seeds for the future.
  • My friends who sat with me during the early days, treating me to long coffee or tea dates, refusing to leave when my son would screech and tantrum due to his inability to communicate.  They’d just talk louder.  They showed me that laughter can and will, make everything better.

The list goes on and on, but I believe I will write about heroes again in August after I’ve attended Comic-Con, surrounded by those posing as superheroes.  They can pretend all they want, but I know that I have the ability to spot the real ones in every corner, everyday of my (and my son’s) life.

"Aspire rather to be a hero than merely appear one." – Baltasar Gracian

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