Colby, my 17-year-old son with autism, and I went to Wal-Mart on Sunday afternoon, looking for valentines for my Aunt Jeanette to send to friends and family. Since she is no longer able to get out and about, I had offered to take on that task for her.
We entered through the garden section of the store and made our way to the stacks of Valentine’s cards. I called Jeanette as we dug through the shelves, but she was less than excited about the remaining selection. Since neither the Disney princess collection nor the 3-D Transformers packet appealed to her, she decided to forego sending cards this year.
Colby and I headed back out through the garden area. Suddenly, he plopped down on a patio furniture display. I try to follow his lead on our “outings” so I pulled up my own chair. As is often the case, we sat in companionable silence for about 15 minutes.
Colby transitions from meditation to movement with lightening speed. He abruptly leapt up, but, instead of exiting, he strode purposefully back into the main part of the store, made a bee-line for a display of sprays of fresh flowers, and scooped up two bouquets wrapped in cellophane.
“For Jeanette,” he said. “Give to Jeanette.”
To understand the impact of these words, you need to know that Colby’s language remains limited despite his years of hard work. His summation of holidays is categorized by one-word responses: “Birthday ... party.” “Christmas … Santa.” “Valentine’s Day … hearts.”
I had no reason to suspect that Colby had noticed the flowers in the store. I certainly had no reason to think he connected the act of giving flowers with Valentine’s Day. And I definitely had no reason to believe that he was remembering my aunt, a woman he sees twice a year at best.
But he did. He noticed and connected and remembered.
So I did, too. Thank you, Colby!
Happy Valentine’s Day!