It was a serendipitous occasion, our son’s graduation day. Unlikely as it was early on in his student career, he qualified to graduate with his intended class of 2012. We had been hoping since pre-school that this day would come. Our oldest son, a bona-fide adult of 18 years of age, graduating and walking with his class – who 14 years prior was given the bleak diagnosis of Autism that dimmed his future to practically black.
The weather was atrocious – heavy black clouds and rain was forecast and being delivered. It was POURING outside. Donning his umbrella, the cap, gown and ceremonial medal – he and the rest of our family piled in the car to drive downtown to the arena. Anyone would be nervous, our son deserved to be too. Every peep, comment, music selection and conversation was monitored. We were to sit down, stay seated, be quiet, turn off the music and basically hold our breath all the way into town.
Today, we complied – it was a big day for the big guy. “We are late!”, “My gown will get wet!”, “What a shitty day!”, “The traffic is jammed!”, “We are still late!”, “Turn off that music!”, “Oh, it’s still raining, what a super SHITTY day!”, “There is no place to park!” And on and on and on it went……………….
Already, by 10:00 a.m., we were exhausted. Silently worrying that he would not be able to cope with the 7,000 people in the audience watching him and his class of 460+ graduates proceed during the ceremony that day. It could take only one air-horn blast and we were certain he would bolt – and so far that morning he couldn’t even cope with his family riding together in the car.
We found birds eye seats looking down on the procession of classmates entering the stage area to shake, pose and accept their diploma covers from the school district administration. “How did he do backstage?” I ask my husband. “Great! He’s nervous, but was following directions.” (Breathe in, breathe out, face forward, it will be fine…).
The day before, the Superintendent’s assistant phoned and asked if there was anything they could do to assist him in the processional. “Just don’t offer a hand to shake; it should save everyone an awkward moment.” Much appreciated advice. And that was all we could offer….no guarantees, just simple advice on how to handle this young man. Advice about how to handle the young man on the Autism Spectrum, who was graduating with the honor of his family and the others who know and love him the most in this world.
We saw our first born turn the curve and enter the staging area. With precision timing, the neighboring family in the stands applauded their son with a lone air horn. “Oh, beautiful, just bloody BEAUTIFUL!” My son turned to look up and locate the origin of the sound, saw us, smiled and moved his next notch forward. Well, okay. That was close. We are still in the game here. “James Frye” the orator announced. Go time! No worries, he simply walked over, took hold of his diploma, offered his hand back to the administrator and accepted his due. Walking down the stairway to his chair, he turned to us in the crowd and gave us a peace sign. While waiting, when he noticed us looking over to him in the chairs, we were awarded more peace signs and air jabs.
We sat through the procession, breathing a little easier, knowing what was coming – we had been warned. The Superintendent announced our son’s name again. This time he was called before the audience to have bestowed upon him the Superintendent’s Award of Achievement for overcoming obstacles and challenges during his school career. The crowd erupted in wild applause complete with foot stomping – what a moment! Making his way back to the stage, removing his cap, he welcomed his gold medal of achievement. No hand shake this time, but turning back to the crowd, victory arms in the air – WOW! What a moment in our life we lived that day. One wholly MAGICAL moment that will carry us into the future – a future anticipating more of the same victories along the way.
The day ended unlike any other we’ve had either….it just got better and better. The rain cleared. Our car wasn’t missing from the tow away zone I parked in. We were welcomed by our favorite table at the family’s favorite pizza joint across from the campus where graduation was held. Grandma and Grandpa found us and were able to join and all together we raised a glass to toast the day. After, we went to the local music store to pick up our graduates gift – a Moog type analog synthesizer. It was in stock – and the store assistant was able to sweeten the deal with extra plug-ins. Lastly, we dropped over to a used record venue, hoping to find some Moog music – and there was an album, sitting on the front rack. “Hello Serendipity, welcome to our life, we’ve been waiting for you!”
~ Wendy Frye
“In reality, serendipity accounts for one percent of the blessings we receive in life, work and love. The other 99 percent is due to our efforts.” Peter McWilliams