As Parents Weekend at Julia’s school comes to a slow crawl (currently stuck in an hour long traffic jam) I’m drifting back to yesterdays events. Spending the day with Jules on my old stomping grounds was a gift. Another moment though stole my heart yesterday and hurled me back some 17 years ago. Let me explain.
While sitting in the lounge enjoying my Starbucks I heard “omg it’s you Karen..Hiiiii Karen”. I turned to find our Reed running towards me and hugging me. Oh wow. It was Reed – Jakes first friend ever. Reed is a College of Saint Rose student too. Right behind him arms outstretched is his mom…my Brenda.
Jake and Reed met in preschool September 2001. Both had recently been diagnosed with Autism. Two weeks after they started school I found myself sitting in a parent support group in the schools gym. I sat there with a cold cup of coffee with bags under my eyes hoping no one could see that I’d been crying every day for a month. I was silent only responding if directly asked a question.
Across from me sat this vision of a mom. Perfect hair, makeup that was air brushed, pearls, loafers, and a killer look from Banana Republic. I didn’t know if I should hate her or ask if she wanted to go shopping. She told us her name was Brenda and that she was an attorney. I thought oh my God this one is so good at this. She’s handling this like a champ. I’m sitting here weeping like child and she’s so snappy. Look at her. We made eye contact and I smiled. That was it. Brenda drew me in.
We met every week at our group and never stopped talking. Conversations turned into every day phone calls, play dates with the kids, double dates with the guys, family parties, and endless school events.
I learned that Brenda has many of the same struggles I had with the kids but just had a different outlook on things. Together we used our different strategies to help each other get through the day to day. Brenda has a knack for looking to the future with the most realistic and positive outlook I will never forget. I was worried about making it through dinner that night and Brenda was researching drivers licenses for the boys.
Years went by and the boys matured in ways we hoped for but just couldn’t imagine. Life stepped in. It got busy. We’d go for months without talking but we never ever lost sight of each other. One day we received the most beautiful invitation in the mail to Reeds Bar Mitzvah. I dropped the invite on the table and burst into tears. Reed was making his Bar Mitzvah. My God.
Months later I walked into Temple and saw looked up to see Brenda in front of me looking gorgeous as ever. We didn’t say anything. We just stared at each other. The tears came quickly for both of us and we held each other for a long time. I just looked at her and said “We made it my friend”. I then looked at Reed and thought..life really is good. This boy who we loved for so many years was now a man. Reed aced his ceremony. The next day we enjoyed Reeds celebration without a care in the world. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house that day despite us dancing the day away!
Flash forward to yesterday when we giggled and reminisced over the coffee listening to Reed and Jake now 20 years old talk to each other like long lost pals. I turned to Brenda and said I love you. What I really wanted to say was thank you. Thank you for holding my hand and pulling me through those early years that I thought I’d never get through. I hope she knows that I’ve got her back until we leave this earth.
I’m a firm believer that people are placed on your path for specific reasons. They are meant to be here with you on your journey. I don’t wish Autism on anyone but I do wish you a Brenda. Your life will be changed forever. Mine was.
Thank you my friend.