How a Middle School Bus Driver Turned Out To Be My Angel In Disguise
Though parts of the day are fuzzy in my mind, the emotions behind it are engrained in my heart.
It was a sunny and crisp November day — one of those days in the fall cool enough for coats, which gives you that cozy feeling, but the sun was shining and warm, making the day feel bright and happy. Our little Gabe was just a month shy of 3 years old, and he was in desperate need of getting out of the house, as were my husband, Dan, and I. We were tired parents from being up with Isaac (just 5 months old at the time) the night before and eager for a change of scenery.
We packed up the kids — snacks, diaper bag for Gabe, ostomy supplies for Isaac, carseat, stroller and blankets. We headed downtown to the science museum which had a great play space for young kids. Gabe loved going there, and it was a fun place for him to explore, get energy out and, as parents, we felt like we were doing something educational — exploring science!
I was at the acceptance stage in my special needs parenting journey. From the outside, Isaac pretty much looked like any other baby. He had eyes that sparkled and nearly disappeared when he smiled wide. His head was slightly large for his tiny body, and just like any other baby, he eagerly chewed on his little toys and he cooed and smiled when you popped your head in front of his carseat.
If you had a keen eye and perhaps some experience, the only thing you would notice about Isaac’s differences is he sat still. There was no kicking off the blanket and no jittery legs. That’s the only time you could witness his disability — when you could see his paralysis.
It’s a funny thing sometimes, learning to be a special needs parent. Sometimes you don’t want anyone to know. You just don’t feel like telling the story. You’re trying to understand the process, and there are still pangs of guilt and fear you just don’t want to feel — you don’t want that feeling of being judged by strangers.
And other moments you just want to shout out, “He is a beautiful baby, but guess what, he is different! He can’t move his legs. Somebody, tell me you can relate! Let me know I am not alone.”
I wasn’t really in the mood to share our story that day. I just wanted to enjoy the day with Gabe and let him play and be a toddler. He had sacrificed Mommy and Daddy time quite a bit in the previous months, and we were finally getting into some normalcy now. Gabe had a ball in the play area, and we even were able to explore the space exhibit. Gabe is my child who loves a good adventure. He loves being anywhere he can play with peers and experience the world.
It was so nice to see him have fun. Isaac was a good baby, and I don’t remember having to do much to entertain him. He slept in his stroller and nursed once or twice. The day was successful.
We were preparing to go and gathering all our stuff before we left. We were near the entrance and surrounded by loud and curious middle school kids on a field trip. One lady, who appeared to be the bus driver and had a warm smile, came over and peered into Isaac’s stroller. She looked at him and doted on him and then began telling me about her son. I had no idea why, but when her son was born, his mom was told he would never walk. “Children are just amazing in what they can do. My son couldn’t walk for a long time and was told he never would, but now today, he is graduating college,” she said.
She proudly told me about her son’s accomplishments, and though I can’t remember word-for-word what she said, I remember the feeling she gave me in sharing her story.
She shared her story without knowing one thing about Isaac. When I told her about Isaac’s condition, her face didn’t flinch. Her eyes didn’t become sad. She had hope in her eyes and a smile on her face, and I remember the words, “He’s beautiful. You never know what he will be able to accomplish.”
Her students were gathering, and she walked out the door. I stood slightly dumbfounded, not knowing what to say. We walked out, and I hurried forward to see if I could thank her, but she was nowhere in sight.
I know for her it was just another day on the job, driving her students on a field trip, but I think the bus driver gig was just a disguise. To me, she was an angel, offering hope and sharing joy.