As soon as we finished clearing the table and putting plates into the dishwasher, Isaac disappeared. A moment later he stood in the center of the kitchen wearing his new black letterman jacket and a shy smile.
Chris and I said words like “ooh” and “ahh” and “snazzy.” I helped Isaac when he struggled to fasten the bottom two snaps.
“What do you think about your new jacket? Do you like it?” I asked. “You know, it says 98.5 FM on the back.”
“Yessssss,” Isaac shouted. Then he opened the door and bolted outside in anticipation of Sunday morning errands.
Considering Isaac’s intense love affair with the radio station, the new jacket is a dream come true. The only thing missing is a hood. There's a pink pig on the back wearing a cowboy hat, but Isaac doesn’t seem to mind.
I asked Isaac if he’d be interested in wearing a 98.5 FM jacket.
When I told Rick we’d like to try it, he said he’d be in town the next day and could leave it on our front porch. I didn’t need to do a thing.
I was deeply touched by his thoughtfulness. He lives an hour away. He could have easily donated the jacket to Goodwill or given it to someone else. His offer was kind and surprising and heartfelt. Often Isaac can’t easily participate in activities. Often he’s not included. Sometimes I wonder if he’s on anyone’s radar.
It was nice to know someone was thinking about him and his country music obsession.
Isaac wore the heavy jacket, which was really too warm for April, to the office with Chris when they dropped off supplies. He kept it on while he waited for Henry to get a haircut. (He loves going to the salon because they are usually playing 98.5 FM.) Later that day he wanted to wear it to the YMCA, but we told him he would be too warm. He understood but seemed disappointed.
Shortly after Isaac received his gift, the weather warmed up. I don’t think he’ll be able to wear his new jacket again until it cools off this fall.
Over the years I’ve been asked what a person can do to support a family with autism.
I have a few ideas:
Speak directly to the person who has autism.
Ask the family what might be most helpful. If possible, do it.
Take a person to a park, a movie, or to the bowling alley. Even a few hours of respite can be a sanity saver for a parent.
Spend time with a sibling who might enjoy some special attention.
Offer to cook a meal.
Extend an invitation to a birthday party or a special event.
Or find a special-interest item that will delight someone on the spectrum. It might be a vacuum or an electric pencil sharpener. It might be a video game or an atlas. It might be a Thomas and Friends engine or a book about the solar system.
For one tall 14-year-old boy with blue eyes, it’s a heavy black jacket with the name of his favorite country music station on the back.
I’m grateful, and I know Isaac is, too.
I’ll always remember the moment when Isaac stood in the kitchen, smiling sweetly while he wore his new letterman jacket for the first time.
And I'll always remember Rick, the kind soul who was tuned into Isaac's needs and his love for country music. It will be difficult to forget Rick's kind gesture -- especially since his name is forever embroidered on the front of the jacket in bright pink.