Tears ran slowly down my cheek. My eyes closed as the salty taste edged the corner of my mouth. Although I hated performing the task at hand I knew it must be done. With my head turned slightly sideways I continued until the onion was finely chopped. “Whew!” I shouted excitedly. “On to the next step.” When preparing meals for my family I appreciate easy to understand recipes. Admittedly, I am a terrible chef but I can follow directions. Being married twenty-three years has taught me how to do that well. One thing I’ve learned about cooking is that once the chopping and dicing is done the rest is fairly simple. Prep work is the key to a successful meal.
The oven was set to 425 degrees and in went the casserole. Something I often wondered about cooking shows on television is “Who cleans up all this mess?” Emeril just cuts it up throws it in a pan and “Bam!” it’s done. The kitchen is left spotless. I must be doing something wrong because “Damn!” there’s a lot to clean. According to the recipe the dish should be ready in about one hour. Ready to take on the wreckage I grabbed my apron from the hook. It was a gift from my dear cousin Pat. She gave this apron as a source of inspiration after quitting my job. It’s made of stain resistant fibers and dark blue in color. It has a nice fit and it’s inscribed with a personal message, “Kitchen Bitch.” I turned on some tunes, grabbed a scrubbing pad and cleaned away.
A voice shrieked from the living room. I removed my headphones to listen to what was being said. “Shut up you son of a bitch!” Cade shouted. “I’m trying to save the world.” Of course I laughed. I then tiptoed to get a glimpse of what was happening. He was playing with his new superhero action figures. “Lay down and die you piece of shit” the role play continued. No doubt he was enjoying his new toys. Cade has hundreds of action figures and I often question buying new ones. After watching him play I will buy hundreds more. He is very fond of superheroes and through fantasies he can do anything. Although he may never save the world I do believe he can change it. With Cade as the superhero and me as his sidekick that is our mission.
Cade has never been bitten by a radioactive spider. And when exposed to gamma rays we’ve always worn protective gear. He’s more like one of the X-Men. For those unfamiliar with the X-Men they are a team of mutants. Mutants are born with superhuman powers because of a gene mutation. Due to fear and prejudice from the “normal” humans, mutants face a constant struggle for peace and tolerance.
We have always been a believer of inclusion with Cade. There is so much to experience in this world. It would be foolish to let one, two, three, four or five bad experiences keep you from enjoying life. Despite the fact that he carries action figures with him or the occasional plush toy, he is still a seventeen year old boy. Therefore, he enjoys many of the same things as other seventeen year old boys. I believe it’s important for my son to interact with typical teenagers. I believe it’s equally important for them to interact with him. It’s the only way to better understand and appreciate each other. I know many parents of disabled children that avoid social outings over fear of a possible meltdown. I have left amusement parks with my shirt ripped off, my pants in shreds and one shoe missing. I have also left restaurants with noodles in my hair, sauce on my face and bruises from wrestling on tables. But I have also left all these places and more with smiles on our faces and wonderful memories in our hearts.
While venturing out we take other people’s enjoyment into consideration. Cade loves movies. When going to the theater we like to sit close to the front and near the aisle. There’s typically less people in that area. It also allows for a smoother exit if we have to leave. You may see popcorn flying for a moment but it will soon be over. Enjoy the show. Cade loves restaurants. Again we try to sit in a less crowded area. If we are seated at a booth or table we like to place Cade at the spot furthest from the next guest. He is usually good but he may start stimming or making noise. In that event we’ll be brief and take our orders to go. Please stay for dessert. The tiramisu is off the chain.
It’s not unusual for us to receive plenty stares when Cade is behaving oddly. It’s all right. I understand curiosity. Many times I see empathetic looks on people’s faces as they gaze over. Of course some people aren’t so empathetic and some people are just cruel. It all comes down to getting to know each other before casting judgement. A trip to the local amusement park was a reminder of this.
It was a hot summer day. Water gently sprayed our faces as the fans blew mist into the crowd. The $6.00 soda was refreshing as we slowly cooled in line. Cade loves roller coasters and this was one of his favorites. He was fourteen years old, carrying a Cabbage Patch Kid and having a great time.
Patiently, we waited behind a group of teens wearing matching t-shirts. Before long one of the teens spotted Cade’s doll. Soon the group began pointing, laughing and making strange faces. Looking over I read their shirts.
“I don’t know what they’re teaching you at the Joyful Christian Summer Camp but I sure hope this isn’t it. What would Jesus do?” I asked.
A few minutes passed and me, Cade, the Cabbage Patch Kid and the rest of the campers boarded the train. We laughed. We screamed. We realized we’re not so different after all.
Kelly Jude Melerine