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When Our Favorite Restaurant Didn't Have the One Item My Son With Autism Orders

There’s this fantastic local restaurant in our little town called Loretta’s. My husband Sean and I have been going there for years.

Our boys have joined us there many times. It’s such a yummy, family-friendly place.

And such a TJ-friendly place. Let me explain.

All TJ wants when he goes out to eat anywhere is a burger. Whether they have it on the menu or not. So when they don’t, we’re sometimes faced with the challenge of his anger and trying to contain it.

Loretta’s occasionally has a hamburger on the menu, and they always know just how TJ likes it — plain with no spices in it or anything. And nothing on it. TJ always orders his burger by saying, “Just bun, burger, bun.”

On previous times when I’ve called Loretta’s for a reservation, I’ve asked if the burger was on the menu. Once when it wasn’t, Loretta ran out to buy some ground beef ahead of time so she could make a plain burger just for TJ.

That’s the kind of wonderful lady she is.

Anyway, when I called last night for our reservation, I didn’t ask. We’ve been working on TJ’s flexibility lately, and I wanted him to try to go with the flow and adjust accordingly if there was no burger. I push him often, and yes, it gets messy, but yes, it works in time.

When we sat down and looked at our menu, there was no burger. We agreed that TJ would have plain buttered noodles with salt. When I asked the waitress to make sure there was no parsley or garnish or anything on the plate, she kind of had a double take moment (we didn’t know this waitress). But she smiled and went back to deliver our order.

TJ was upset. I asked him to take a deep breath. He yelled “No!” and I thought for a quick second, that’s it, we are done here. I calmly told him he’s not to yell like that in a restaurant and asked him again to take some deep breaths. He did. He wasn’t happy, but he did. Then his brother, Peter, asked him about a movie he wanted to watch later. TJ calmed down, and we seemed to be in the clear.

Then the waitress came back and said to TJ, “Loretta said she can make some chicken fingers and fries for you if you’d rather. Would you like that?”

Immediately TJ smiled. He almost yelled when he said “Yes! Thank you!” And I said to the waitress, “Please tell Loretta that we love her.”

I think it was the “no parsley no garnish no nothing” request that let Loretta know it was us.

A few minutes later the waitress came back with some chicken wings saying, “Loretta thought you all would like this while you wait for your dinner.”

I was taken back by the generosity and kindness we were experiencing. Blown away and so touched.

A few days ago I was upset by two young girls giggling and staring at TJ in the orthodontist waiting room as he looked at a kids’ animal magazine. And here I was almost brought to tears by the kindness of this restaurant and its people. That’s the kind of yo-yo ride we’re on. That is life.

It reminds me that just when I feel beaten down, along comes someone to reach out to us and help us back up.

Kindness for kindness sake does exist.

It’s a kindness that lasts in our family long after our visit to your lovely restaurant is done.

Thank you, Loretta. Thank you and your wonderful staff for your kindness and caring.

It really does mean the world to us.

two boys at a bowling alley

Editor’s note: This post has been updated since publication to meet our editorial guidelines.

A version of this post originally appeared on I Don’t Have a Job.

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