People have always reacted to Jackson. Strangers stop to tell me how cute he is, how big he is, how they like his little glasses. I of course have loved all these compliments on my baby. But as he gets older I know people will start to recognize his differences and instead of stopping to talk about him, they may stare. He still gets lots of “oh he is so cute” compliments and for the most part looks like a “normal” little boy, which I am thankful for. A few months ago we were in Costco and were in the process of checking out. Our checker was a woman and the boxer was a young man. The boxer asked how Jackson hurt his hand. [Jackson wears a brace on his left hand to keep his hand open. Because the damage to his brain is on the right side, it affects the left side of his body. As a result Jackson keeps his left hand in a fist. The brace opens his hand to send a message to his brain that he has a hand and to use it.] I told the young man Jackson’s hand wasn’t hurt, that he had brain damage and the brace is used to help him use his hand. The checker stopped scanning our items and turned to Jackson, as did the boxer. The checker said “But he’s so perfect” and they boxer agreed. He asked if Jackson would get better someday. I told him the damage was done and he would never be “normal” but that he would make continue to make progress. They both stood there staring at Jackson for what seemed an eternity. Finally the checker started scanning again and we were soon on our way. But not without her commenting about how perfect Jackson is a couple of more times. Their reaction was so surprising to me. I thought it was funny and I still do. But I also think of how just some random little boy shopping with his mom affected two strangers in a very touching way.
Then there are the bad reactions. At the pool one day waiting for Jackson to start therapy, he was sitting on my lap and sneezed. I got up, carried him over to the desk and got a Kleenex. As I was walking by, a young girl (who I later found out was 19 years old and had a 1 year old baby) said to me “How old is your son?” I replied “He’s 2.” She remarked “And he can’t walk?” This was the first time a stranger had ever made any kind of negative remark about Jackson to me and I was a little shocked. My initial response was to turn to her and say “No you dipshit he can’t walk. Why do you think he is here to get therapy? Why do you think he is the only baby in the pool while everyone else in the pool is an adult?” Instead I just coldly replied “No.” It must have sounded cold too because she instantly started to apologize and tell me she didn’t mean to be so rude. Thankfully Jackson’s therapist came at that point and I didn’t have to communicate with her again. But for the rest of the day it bothered me. I kept telling myself she was a young girl and just didn’t understand, but secretly I wanted to go find her and slap her. Even writing about it now I still want to slap her. Unfortunately, I know that she isn’t going to be the last ignorant person I will encounter with Jackson. I hope by the time the next one comes along I will be calm, rational and able to educate them rather than try to slap them.
I think my favorite reaction to Jackson came from my Dad. When we got Jackson’s diagnosis it took us a while to call our families and tell everyone. Telling my Dad was the hardest for me. I knew he would worry endlessly about Jackson, Kevin and I. But I also felt that in a way I had let him down. I wasn’t able to give him a “normal” grandson. It took me most of the day to call him. When I finally did, I chickened out. I just couldn’t do it. I spent another hour or so getting my nerve up to call Dad back. This time, with tears in my eyes and a choked up voice, I told him. He was quiet for a few seconds and then he said “Well Honey, I guess we’ll just love him more.” Yup Dad, I guess we will.