Trust me when I tell you that what came out of my mouth wasn't at all what I truly wanted to say to her. But I was suspended in that fragile moment between trying to hold it together for the sake of my children and succumbing to the need to come apart at the seams, and it was all my lips could muster as I wavered on the tightrope dividing the two.
"Um, excuse me, can I help you with something?"
She looked up at me startled.
I had to grip the shopping cart so I wouldn't collapse from emotion.
"This is autism," I told her, as I pointed to Andrew, splayed out on the floor of the plastic bin aisle, engaging in an unraveling I had never witnessed in public before. "It can be really hard, so please keep your staring and eye rolling to yourself."
My voice was shaky but firm.
Obviously surprised at being caught and subsequently called out on her judgmental reaction to my son's sudden and all-consuming meltdown, she croaked out a lame "sorry," and scurried away.
It wasn't until she was completely out of sight that I allowed my legs to turn to Jello and buckle underneath me as I sat next to Andrew on the cold floor.
Target had never felt so bleak and unwelcoming. READ MORE >>
This Modified Life is a column by Jo Ashline for and about the families in Orange County living with special needs. Jo is a freelance writer and married mother of two. If you have a question for Jo or a suggestion for a topic, email her at email@example.com.
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