When I was a teenager there was a man in my area that everyone called Tony Beep Beep. He was called this because you could often find him standing on the corner of the road shouting at car drivers to honk their horns. I’ve spent a lot of time of late wondering more and more about this young adult from my childhood.
Who was he? Who was looking after him? Why did he spend hours shouting “beep beep” alone at a roadside?
I have been thinking about him because I realised that he was my first experience of someone a little bit different and a whole lot special.
I have been thinking about him as he was my first experience of other people’s reactions to someone who was a little bit different and a whole lot special.
I have been thinking about him because of Gabe – my baby boy who is also a little bit different and a whole lot special.
Although my memories of him are hazy, I haven’t dared ask family and friends about him in case they say anything negative. You see the Tony Beep Beep I remember had legend status, was well liked and drivers used to love joining in his game.
I haven’t wanted to ask in case this is incorrect.
I like believing that the world is a kind place to people like Tony. That people saw beyond the behaviour. I like believing that his is not a story of ridicule, mocking and laughter, but more a tale of empathy, compassion and understanding. And I am sure I am right in most cases. Yet it is easy to get slightly freaked out by things we don’t really understand. We all do it – in some guise or another – whether it is walking the long way around to avoid the Big Issue seller, switching off the news when it recounts another mass tragedy, or avoiding the ex-marine in a wheelchair handing out leaflets.
It is just the way things are. And the reason why I think I need to develop quite a thick hide.
You see we have started the “coming out” process with Gabe and his disabilities. It started with a few hints, some flirting with extra equipment, we went to a few gay discos (aka Camp Amazing) and now we are about to do full on public displays of affection. Jeez, we are about to make a major marital commitment so the world is in no doubt.
You see Gabe’s statement of educational needs arrived in the post last week and with it a request to choose a school. What seemed like moons away has finally arrived. It is a no brainer really. He needs a special school that can meet both his physical and learning challenges.
Am I sad? Yes. Do I long for all three of my children to go to the same school? Yes. Am I still retaining some glimmer of hope that a mainstream school will at some point be in his future? Yes. Do I still harbour dreams that he will pull on his walking shoes one day and join in with the spelling tests? Hell yes. But right now what I want more is for him to be in the right environment that will help him be the best he can be possibly be.
It is not the time to stay in wistful fantasy worlds (where I am also a size 6, live in a massive mansion and hang out with Gary Barlow and Robbie Williams who BOTH have secret crushes on me). I need to pick up the phone and find the best place for my boy. It will be great for professionals to take up the lion’s share of his therapy, record his achievements, and find ways of stimulating him that I can’t even imagine. He will love it. I know that.
But it is a hard pill to swallow and that special little bus swinging by our house twice a day to transport him to his ten-pupil classroom will be our equivalent of standing up on the stage at the family wedding and announcing a sexual preference.
I just hope that people do not avert their eyes, chose to cross the road or walk the long way around, but instead join us by beeping their horns.
|Gabe says: “There better be no orange mush food at this new school or else I’ll grump.”|