Dinner Rush

The man says, “To see my son get excited about a new hat is the highlight of my day. I’d sell everything I own just to see him smile. I love him more than my own life.”

A dinner rush. There’s a line of young, fashionably dressed people in this fancy restaurant, waiting for tables. Actually, it’s more like an angry mob with skinny jeans and low blood sugar.

I’d rather go to a Waffle House, if you ask me, but my wife is hellbent on eating here.

There’s a child ahead of me. He’s with his parents. He’s an animated kid. I notice him because he is wearing a leather football helmet—the kind college lineman wore in the ‘20’s.

I ask the kid about the piece of nostalgia on his noggin.

The child seems uncomfortable. He doesn’t look me in the eye. He looks at the wall and says in a loud voice, “My linebacker hat.”

I ask if he’s a linebacker for the Tigers.

“No,” he says. “I just like hats.”

Well, as it happens I am a hat man myself. For my first day of school I wore a ten-gallon hat, chaps, and holster.

My teacher stopped me at the classroom door, reminding me that gentlemen never wear hats inside. Then, she told me to check my iron at the door.

It was to be the last day I ever wielded dual peacemakers.

“We have TONS of hats,” says the boy’s mother. “My husband was online last night ordering a hundred more.”

She explains that her son has autism. He also has a major stockpile of headwear. Sailor hats, baseball hats, flight gear, astronaut caps, stocking caps, even a genuine Auburn football helmet.

“At first,” she said. “We couldn’t get him to wear ANYTHING on his head. It would make him freak out. But then, something changed.”

It started with a knit cap she bought from Target. Her son liked the color of it. He wore it until the thing started to fall apart.

One day, her husband found a leather gridiron helmet in an antique store. He bought it to decorate his home office. The boy had the thing secure on his head the moment he saw it.

The rest is history.

“When I found out he had autism,” says the boy’s father. “I was kinda scared, I won’t lie. But now I know there’s nothing to be scared of. We’re embracing it.”

The man lightly pats the boy’s shoulder, but the child doesn’t like it. He hollers.

The man tells me he is learning more about his son every day. As a result, the hat collection keeps growing.

Because it’s more than hats. The hats are a way to love a boy who doesn’t show his love the same way they do.

The man says, “To see my son get excited about a new hat is the highlight of my day. I’d sell everything I own just to see him smile. I love him more than my own life.”

Our conversation is over. The hostess calls them. Their table is ready. I wave goodbye.

“CAN I ORDER SQUID, DAD?” the kid says in a loud voice. “I WANT SQUID!”

Before they leave, the daddy winks at me while his son is hollering.

The man and I shake hands. “God bless you,” he says.

Yes.

He certainly did tonight.

12 comments

  1. Larry McEntire - September 18, 2017 1:44 pm

    You consistently remind me of the noble to be found in the commonplace. I need to hear Judy Collins sing “Suzzane” right now! Keep it going!

    Reply
  2. Pat Durmon - September 18, 2017 2:21 pm

    Interesting. People with autism are the most interesting people in the world. My granddaughter has autism. Everyone else dims beside her. Thank you for the great blog.

    Reply
  3. Jack Quanstrum - September 18, 2017 2:44 pm

    Touching story. Isn’t it interesting how all of us as humans have different forms of self expression whether we are diagnosed with something or not. Given understanding and awillingness to listen we can find good and love all around us. Like you do Sean. Shalom!

    Reply
  4. Wendy - September 18, 2017 5:34 pm

    While my 2 children don’t have autism, they battle their own demons daily. One with addiction problems (in treatment now) & the other with full blown anxiety. Thank you, Sean, for your touching story today!

    Reply
  5. Laura - September 18, 2017 7:32 pm

    What a blessing for you!! Glad Jamie wanted to go to that restaurant. I find that God blesses us, often when we least expect it, in the most common or most dramatic way. Too many people miss the blessing because they are searching for the wrong thing. Thanks, Sean!
    .

    Reply
  6. teachenglish67 - September 18, 2017 7:53 pm

    Hats are important. I have my Daddy’s grey Stetson hanging on my family room wall. I see it every time I leave the house. It is important to me to have that hat where it is because the man who wore it was important to me. I have 2 grandchildren who are in the autistic spectrum. I have had them living with me since ’99 and have raised them to adulthood. My Beloved and I adopted them in 2000; we’ve never regretted it. In 2011 he passed away due to cancer. I raised them afterwards by myself. In the autistic community there is a saying, “If you have met one autistic spectrum person, you have met one autistic spectrum person.” This is so true. Autistic people will not venture very far into you world, but will want you to come as far as you can into theirs. They see the world completely differently than we do. It’s refreshing; it’s “black or white” with no or very little “grey”; it’s not as scary as our world.
    I’m glad you met this young man, Sean. Welcome to the world of those who were blessed to have an autistic spectrum blessing in their world.

    Reply
  7. JaneBeck - September 19, 2017 12:54 am

    Hubby’s cousin’s daughter has a more severe form of autism. Does not speak, but she understands most words. Makes loud noises. I try not to look at her when I’m talking. I don’t touch her, because she doesn’t like it. We all went out to dinner together, early, so it was quiet with few other people in the restaurant. I sat beside her. Part way through, she laid her head on my shoulder, and I felt like I had been blessed with the biggest hug ever!

    Reply
  8. Kathy Phillips - September 19, 2017 1:38 am

    I say Everytime I read your stories that I am not going to cry this time.. You got me again. Love it.

    Reply
  9. Nina Thompson - September 19, 2017 4:55 pm

    At a time in my life when I was full of anger and sadness, my job changed and I was introduced to a student with ASD. Suffice it to say, that 6 year old boy changed my anger and sadness into an all encompassing joy. He let me into his world and I’ve never been the same. Your encounter with the hat loving young man reminded me again that anyone can bring joy to others….sometimes they just don’t know it.

    Reply
  10. Wells Warren - September 19, 2017 10:29 pm

    Thanks for this good story, a fine piece of writing. My grandson has autism, and I see him developing almost every day. Peace, Wells+

    Reply
  11. Anne Trawick - September 25, 2017 4:41 am

    Every parent of an autistic child will love you for this! So do I!

    Reply
  12. Ike Stokes - October 31, 2017 6:08 pm

    My grandson has autism. I can see him in this article (but not with hats, he can’t abide anything on his head), in that each autistic child is unique and an individual. When my grandson sees something that he likes, he REALLY likes it. Right now he’s into bobby pins. He loves to sort them (in sets of four and they must be identical) and then he bends them to suit his pleasure. Thanks for sharing a truly touching story.

    Reply

Leave a Reply