He is also disabled.
After years of tests and zero results all we know is that he has a rare but undiagnosed genetic disorder. Almost five, he can’t play hockey or video games or hide and seek or all the other things that five year olds are supposed to do. He can’t even walk or talk or crawl.
But he makes progress every day. Today’s big achievement was that he used a regular sippy cup by himself for the first time instead of drinking milk from a bottle. These are the moments that make me as proud as I would be if he had just scored the game winning soccer goal.
Most importantly, Bryson is happy. And innocent. He’s never had a time out or been sent to the principal’s office or done anything mean to another human being. He is simply incapable.
There are phases of mourning that you go through when you learn that your child is disabled. I’ve been through them all.
I’ve arrived in a place where I feel okay about it, mostly. But once in a while something happens that reminds me that this world is not kind to those who are different.
Tonight we took our two boys out for dinner to a new Thai/Japanese restaurant that opened around the corner. It’s all-you-can-taste: You order what you want from the menu and they bring it to your table. We brought a thermos of food for Bryson as it’s hard to find food he can eat in restaurants.
We ordered our first round of food and it came quickly – Tom Yum soup, mango salad, sushi, green curry, coconut shrimp, and spicy octopus. The food was hot and fresh and delicious.
We ordered our next round. Mango chicken came quickly. But 30 minutes later we were still waiting for more sushi and barbeque ribs. We asked our waiter to check on the order.
Despite the wait, the kids were in good spirits. My seven-year-old son Connor was passing the time by inventing a new variation on Pokemon which he called Connormon. And Bryson was communicating with us from his wheelchair the only way he knows how – through songful, deep-throated vocalizations.
Another 15 minutes later we asked to speak to a manager, who explained to us that the owners were trying to save on staffing costs and there weren’t enough people on duty to service the busy restaurant.
I asked to speak to the person in charge. A few minutes later, a woman dropped by our table. Naturally, I assumed she was there to hear my complaint. She wasn’t.
“You need to tell your son to be quiet,” she said, pointing at Bryson. “Other guests are complaining that they can’t enjoy their meals in peace.”
We were flabbergasted. We pointed out what we thought was obvious – that Bryson has severe mental and physical disabilities and that we can’t just tell him to be quiet.
“It’s more than one table that has complained,” said the woman in charge, before agreeing to expedite our order and put it in take-out containers.
Fifteen minutes later the food arrived, along with the bill, which the waiter had discounted by 10 per cent. I paid the bill and did something I’ve never done before – I declined to tip.
Before leaving I set out to find the most senior person in the restaurant. I told my story – not just about the food delay but also about the request that we shut up our disabled son – to a man who apologized profusely and offered to credit the entire meal. He also agreed to my request that the restaurant itself pay our waiter a $15 tip. For this reason, I’ll refrain from naming the restaurant here.
We live and love Bryson’s differences every single day. Nights like this one remind me that there are people who can’t accept difference for a single meal.
As Father’s Day approaches, my pledge to Bryson is to be by his side to protect him from the judgments of this world until the day I die.
My single greatest fear in the world is that there will be nobody to protect him after my wife and I are gone.