The New Blue Symbol.

It was at the back of my mind, only because I shooed it there.  Go, go on.  It’s just a task, like laundry or making the bed.  Another task.  The alarm was set on my phone.  I knew it would be done as scheduled.  No need to think about it.  And so, I set aside the papers.  I went about my business, willing it out of my mind.

Nevertheless, the day arrived.  I didn’t need to set the alarm, because, despite my attempts, the issue never left me alone.  Wednesday at 3:50 p.m. was the appointed time.  No big deal, I tried to convince myself.

It was a busy day.  The time approached oddly.  One moment, when the thought crossed my mind, it seemed an eternity before I would go.  The next moment, I was in the car, headed to face it.

Papers in hand, I entered the building.  Even this late in the afternoon, chairs were filled and a long line stretched down the left side of a two-sided line.  The right side was empty.  At the front of both lines was a desk framed with a cubicle type divider and lined with a counter.  One woman sat beneath the depressing florescent lights.  She was asking questions of a mother, and what appeared to be, her teenage son.  English was the second language.  All I could make of it was much confusion concerning their transaction.

Before me to the right, on the counter, sat a lopsided, propped up sign with the words, “Appointment Line”, all in caps, staring at me.  Yet, there was only one person on the other side of the counter, and she was busy translating the other transaction.  I hesitated over where to go, looking to the long line to my left.  My appointment was scheduled to happen in two minutes.

I chose the empty line.  I waited.  The two minutes passed.  Then four.  Then seven.  Finally, the woman had completed her task with the two people.  She looked annoyed and tired.  Nevertheless, she put on a smile as she looked toward me.  I asked her tentatively if “this” was the line for appointments.  “Yes,” she said kindly, and despite the scowling, angry looks from the crowd to my left, she took my papers from me next.  She gave me a ticket and told me to wait for my number to be called.

I walked away.  The windows were set up so that they were in lines down one row and then, at a right angle around a corner.  Before I had decided where to sit and wait, my number was called over a speaker to Window 7.  I approached with my number tag and papers.  Another cubicle.  Another counter.  Another woman.  Without saying a word, she took the papers and scanned them.  I was quiet.  After reading and rifling through, she handed me back the doctor’s letter.  “You may keep this one for your file,” she said as she handed it back to me, expressionless.

She moved toward a drawer and asked, “Is it for a permanent placard then?”  “Yes,” I said softly, and, in that moment, the tears formed and welled up in my eyes.  Ridiculous, I told myself.  Why must you be such a drama queen?! This changes nothing.  It means nothing more or less than before.  You are just providing another measure of safety for your son.  

But it was too late.  She saw my eyes.  I looked away.

“He’s only six years old,” I told her, quietly, looking at the doctor’s note I had folded back to the size that it came in the envelope.  “I never thought I would see his name on a paper like this,”  My voice trailed off.  Even, the words implied I was unhappy with my son.  Yet nothing could be further from the truth.  I wiped my eyes with the sleeve of my black wool coat. She nodded sympathetically.  Stop it!  I wanted to yell at her.  The last thing I need is your pity!  You have no idea how amazing my son is.  You have no idea.

She opened a large white envelope.  Taking a paper she printed fresh from her printer, she placed it inside the envelope with my son’s name and address appearing through the clear plastic window, like an ordinary utility bill.  The solid blue, plastic hanger that was the placard was inside the envelope.  It peeked out from within, shiny blue, scratch free, with the universal symbol and white lettering clearly visible within.

“You must place this, (indicating the paper she had just put inside the envelope) in the window whenever you park your car.  Place the placard on the rear view mirror.  You must remove the placard again before driving.”  The tone of her instruction was the same, monotonous speech I heard from flight attendants giving the fasten seat belt instructions.  She knew nothing of what feelings were churning inside me as she droned on, giving the speech that she’d clearly done hundreds of times before I stood here.  Or perhaps she knew how I might feel and had disconnected from it so long ago that it didn’t cross her mind anymore.

Looking at the envelope, while listening to her instructions, I was struck by the number of mixed feelings I had reeling through my head.  There was relief that my little boy would now be safer, with less walking distance to dart in crowded parking lots:  numbness at the realization that my son was now intertwined with the blue symbol I’d never really connected him to before:  anger at myself for the selfishness of feeling sad: guilt at possessing the symbol which I thought belonged only to people unable to walk: more anger at myself for knowing my son has an invisible disability, yet still, stupidly feeling that only a visible disability justified holding this placard.

She handed me the envelope with a piteous look.  Anger flushed my cheeks which felt scratchy dry from where I’d wiped my sleeve moments before.  Outside the building, I could hear birds tweeting.  The sun shone brightly.  It was spring in the middle of winter.  I walked to the car, still jostling with the mixed emotions.  Seated behind the wheel, I opened the envelope.  I took out the paper and read my son’s full name. And the tears flowed again, despite shameful anger at myself.  Looking in the rear view mirror, I wiped away the evidence once more and drove to pick up my little boy.

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About solodialogue

I'm a lawyer and the mom of a 6 year old boy with autism. I work part time and spend the rest driving here and there and everywhere for my son's various therapies. Instead of trying cases, I now play Pac-man and watch SpongeBob. I wear old sweaters and jeans and always, always flat shoes to run after my son. Yeah, it's different but I wouldn't change it for anything. The love of my child is the most powerful, beautiful and rewarding aspect of my life.
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13 Responses to The New Blue Symbol.

  1. When you smile, I smile with you and so too, when you cry, I cry with you. You are not wrong for any of the things you felt. You are human and you are an incredibly devoted Mom with nothing to feel guilty about. But if you need to shed a tear, then shed it. No judgment here. xoxo {hugs}

  2. Lisa says:

    I am sending you hugs and love. I just wiped away my own tear. I imagine how difficult it had to be to obtain the placard…the physical representation of disability…and yet, it just a tool. Simple as that…a tool. Another tool in T’s box that will help him succeed in the world. It is nothing major, but I know it will help give you both peace of mind. Hang in there…hugs.

  3. Been there, done that. We got one in November and I shed some tears over it, too. It does make life a little easier, though. Now I’m just always paranoid that I’m getting looks like “why do THEY need to park there?”…..even though if you watch Sam walk for 20 feet you can tell something is going on with her.

  4. Shanell says:

    Heart! Wow. I understand why the tears came. My husband and I recently went in to sign our girl up for a registered disability savings plan. I had a lump in my throat the whole time.

  5. Sarah says:

    The DMV is the place were people go to work on having their personalities sucked out and stomped on! I have a blue placard for myself and now that you have it, you can get it renewed by mail without having to deal with the DMV. I am glad you got one to add another layer of safety for your little one. PEACE

  6. Mom2MissK says:

    We’re probably going to end up getting one for me and Little Miss sooner or later too. Between her growing and my RA, I don’t know how much longer we can manage. Still, the hurt? Yeah… I can imagine. That’s why we don’t have one yet.

    I’m sorry, Karen — but you did the right thing. T needs to know that you are going to keep him safe and you did that. You are the best kind of mama. ((Hugs))

  7. Wendy Grace says:

    If we each had a nickel for every time we cried alone in our cars, we wouldn’t have to worry about paying the therapy bills. Hugs to you and your beautiful boy.

  8. Sue says:

    I’m so sorry that your trip to Hawaii resulted in this, but you are doing what you need to do to help him through it. You are still amazing as is he.

    I am glad that otherwise it was a good trip and I loved your pictures.

  9. {{hugs}} I’m sorry. It’s never easy having to explain. You are an amazing mama and you are taking care of your little guy. That is all that matters.

  10. Erin says:

    I am sorry it was so hard. You are stronger than I am…. I need to get one for my girls, and still haven’t summoned the courage to do it. I hate that symbol. I haven’t even gotten up the nerve to transition Mary from a regular stroller to a “pediatric stroller,” aka wheelchair. You did the right thing. As my dad keeps telling me, just think of how many people really do abuse it. You need it. Your boy needs it . And you are a great mama for keeping him a little safer. {{Hugs.}}

  11. Cyn says:

    Sometimes even when we know we are doing the right thing, it still feels hard. You did a great thing for your boy.

    We live in the city and we share a common right-away with a neighbour and have a permit to park on the street. It’s during he busy times of the day I get nervous moving my son and little girl back and forth. If I could I would get one too. *hugs*

  12. Jen says:

    Aww Karen! This reminds me of our trip to Disney last year. I broke down in front of the lady who gave us our guest assistance pass. It was our very first time to the Magic Kingdom, and my little guy had a major meltdown on the ferry ride there (he didn’t want to take the monorail either). There was no other way to get to the park! I really didn’t expect a meltdown on the way to the happiest place on EARTH!! So I cried as I showed our paperwork for the guest assistance pass. The nice lady who issued it gave me about 100 Mickey Mouse stickers to help. They actually did, because I had to use them over the automatic flush sensors on each toilet in the guest assisted bathrooms in each park. UGH!! Anyway I know how you feel, but you really are helping Tootles with it!! You’re such a great mom!

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