Friends Forever

jo ann cropBy: Jo  Ann Simons

I am at Starbucks nursing a decaf and borrowing their wifi. I am not alone. Even on a Friday night on the biggest and busiest shopping day in the United States, the day after Thanksgiving, there are a few others here as well.

I didn’t come to work. I came to wait.

I just drove my son, Jon, to his 15th high school reunion and dropped him off alone at a bar. He has been looking forward to this night, maybe for the five years since his 10th reunion.  He remembers high school with happiness- being included in all academic classes, playing on the golf team, managing the basketball and lacrosse teams, coaching powderpuff, going to proms and being in the senior show.

Graduating with his class, being awarded class scholarships and with college acceptances in hand-  these were not small feats in the 1990’s.

But it’s tonight’s reunion that is on my mind. Will anyone be there that Jon knows? Will he even find the room where the reunion is being held? Will he demonstrate good decision making- I saw the list of beers he was thinking of tasting and with $50 and a credit card, it was all up to him.

Jon and friends
On the car ride to the bar, we discussed how there might not be too many of his classmates there- they are in their mid-30’s now and many are married with children, with careers and mortgages. They may not be as nostalgic as Jon is about high school.  From my snooping on Jon’s Facebook page I could see that there were not many who RSVP’d. I prepared him but, Jon’s optimism was evident, “You never know”.

As he headed out of the car, I asked if he wanted me to bring him into the bar to find the group and he looked back with a glance and  said “I will text you.”

How long must I wait to have the assurance that he was safe and with friends? As it turned out, not very long at all because as soon as I sat down, decaf in hand, the text arrived. It simply said, “Adam Farber”.

With my eyes moist, I was transported back eighteen years. Jon was a sophomore in high school, attending the local school for the very first time and Adam was in our small car pool. It was the year that Adam wore a kippah to school.  Even in our suburban high school with a large Jewish population, Adam stood out. He was the only kid with a kippah. As I watched Adam walk into school one  morning, I realized just how special he was- he walked into the high school wearing a kippah and walking side by side, with his classmate, with Down syndrome. I saw him as a teen with courage and conviction and I wanted to hug him. I settled for telling his family how moved I was. I was also deeply appreciative.

Somehow, I am not surprised that it was Adam who first found Jon tonight.

Jo Ann Simons is a Disability Advisor to the Ruderman Family Foundation and President and CEO of the Cardinal Cushing Centers

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Filed under Down syndrome, perceptions of disability

3 responses to “Friends Forever

  1. Lovely piece Ann.
    As a parent who raised a child with disabilities, we can all relate. The anxiety we have felt and the deep seated love and appreciation for those who took the time to care and befriend our children, was capsulated beautifully. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Joann, I had to write how much your story moved me. I could picture the wait at Starbucks and feel your concern for Jon. Thank you for sharing it. It’s so good to have one’s people like Jon does.

  3. Thank you for the kind words. When I picked Jon up, I noticed that someone seemed to have followed him out and and went back in after Jon got into my car. I asked Jon if he walked out with someone and he said “no”. It was just a classmate ( one of the football players,now a physician with 2 kids of his own) making sure he was safe, but, without Jon knowing.

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