As I order a new school bag online for my son I glance up as he flaps and laughs at the same 10 seconds of video he’s had on repeat all day. He has no idea about going back to school like he has no idea about so many things in life.
He had no idea why school suddenly stopped, no idea why his routine suddenly changed and no idea why he could no longer splash in the local swimming pool or crawl around in soft play at the weekends like he’s done for the last 11 years.
Like so many millions throughout the world with significant learning disabilities he has been totally oblivious to the pandemic that has swept the world and changed all our lives.
Right now people like my son might cause concern for so many. He can’t understand or observe social distancing, he can’t wear a face mask, those looking after him, including teachers and respite staff, have to have prolonged close contact in order to keep him safe and even washing hands isn’t something he understands or can do without great stress to himself and others. He can’t read so signage is useless, he can’t shop alone and he can’t say if he ever has any symptoms.
He’s not up to date with the news neither is he worried for the future.
He lives in the here and now, has no concept of money, and happily flaps at the same thing he watched weeks before and still has on repeat.
As I look at his smile and hear his laugh, I am so grateful for people like him: All those with such a simple level of living have so much to teach us and even more so now as we navigate through this year.
Those wonderful and very special people who remain obvious to the pandemic show us that each day has something to offer, even if it’s the most simplest of things like smiling gratefully at being given a snack or laughing as the first raindrops of the day lands on your nose and tickles you.
They teach us patience and understanding and tolerance of others. When the world says to stand back from everyone and avoid physical contact there’s something incredibly touching when someone like my son takes your hand because he knows no different or picks up keys a stranger drops and hands them to them without fear of catching anything because he has no understanding there’s anything he could catch. Or when he came to a shop with me and at the checkout went up a little too close to the server because he was signing ‘thank you’ because he can’t verbally say it. Yes he broke rules but he doesn’t know or understand and there’s no malice or agenda for those with his level of comprehension.
Looking after my son and keeping him safe this year hasn’t been easy.
Yet his innocence, his ability to love every single day and find fun in the simplistic of things, his lack of fear and total trust that his needs will be met, his natural enthusiasm and spark, his blissful obliviousness to the entire worldwide pandemic is so refreshing and healing.
So, to all those oblivious to world events this year, to all those with significant learning disabilities, complex needs and those unable to comprehend for any number of reasons: thank you. You continue to show me that the future is brighter than we think, tomorrow will give us reason to laugh and even if it feels like the same ten seconds are on repeat over and over we can still flap and laugh and find joy regardless.
The rain isn’t so bad when that first drop lands right on the end of your nose and it tickles. And even if it pours down just zip up your coat and have fun anyway.
There’s a lot to be said for all those obvious to the events of 2020 and the world is so much better having those children and adults like my son in it.