Sunday, December 25, 2016

Finding Love in the Most Unlikely Places / #MerryChristmas & #HappyHanukkah

Merry Christmas and Happy Hannukah to all across America. Today’s essay is simple and affords a glimpse into my operations as a private Special Educator to a student of mine whom I call #theCowboy and #DearLeader. I have worked with him for a bit over seven years. He likes to ride horses and communicate with statements and declarations.


December 24th, 2016, about 1400 hours (Zulu time)
New Canaan, Connecticut

I was on the job with #theCowboy as we walked into a saloon called Tony’s Deli. #TheCowboy opened the door and established his presence, letting it be known to all present that he was interested in a buffalo chicken wrap. Being headstrong, he would not be deterred and made it clear throughout the New Canaan saloon that he was there. I hovered over him as his coach, though he makes me feel like I am the Secret Service to Kim Jong-Un, the North Korean leader. #theCowboy is a lad who knows what he wants and when he wants it. 

We sat down by the entrance next to a young couple. #DearLeader, who is on the autism spectrum, chose to have a hearty salad while he waited for his wrap. As is his custom, he ordered me around to get him ‘Very Berry’ juice boxes in repeated succession as he sat and held court by the entrance to the corner saloon on the outskirts of this quaint mountain town.
With food and drink before him, #theLeader was copacetic and at ease though the establishment was bustling with activity. The staff eyed me and greeted me with smiles and called me by a moniker they have chosen for me, ‘Daddy Yankee.’ Of course, my smile and laughter at this belied my bristling nature inside as I laughed off the comparison to the Reggaeton star from Puerto Rico. What could I say, I was wearing a fedora and black hooded jacket, all part of the Secret Service uniform I use as I play the dual role of Special Educator Coach and protector extraordinaire to #theCowboy.

In front of us was a young couple eating who let us share a table with them. They must have been no more than twenty-five years old. I could tell both had an intellectual disability. They were at peace with one another and behaved like a total lady and gentleman. It was nice to see these two adults side by side. I asked the fellow if we could join their table by the window and he was most gracious with his manner and words asking me to go ahead by all means.

 I was happy for the young couple. Many a times, individuals with severe disabilities spend their lifetime alone and without friends. It is a hard reality that is quite common, so I was overjoyed to see these two enjoying a meal together and being so comfortable with one another. Their was a nice peace to them, as if they had known each other all their lives and were seniors at the relationship business. They were quiet and orderly as they had their meal. 

Kim Jung-Un, my student who is on the autism spectrum, was all smiles with momentary cackles here and there which would quickly subside into orders for another drink or letting me know he was all about the buffalo wrap, come hell or high water. After some time, the nice couple chose to move to a quieter spot in the locale. #DearLeader proved to be much to boisterous for their sensibilities. They were so kind as I motioned and said that we would move and they could stay. In the nicest terms, the fellow let me know that that was not necessary as he and his lady friend moved to a quieter spot. He doted on her. I could tell their was love between them. Afterwards, on their way out they both smiled my way, he came over to shake my hand, and wished me well as he and his woman exited the building. I thought the welcome encounter most interesting as I watched them depart side by side.

Did someone help match them up? Did they grow up together? Did they find each other recently? Whatever it may be, love was present in the silence of their lunch date together. Few and far in between do I see that level of comfort and close heart-connection between two. It was nice to behold and reminded me that yes indeed, God is love.

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