Wonder Boy glistened with sweat. He pointed at runners wearing bright, yellow Sophie’s Run tee shirts like his as they passed him in ones, twos and bigger groups. He howled in frustration, hit his head and threw himself, bum-first, to the pavement.
With my right arm in a cast I was not able to participate in Sophie’s Run, the annual 3.4 mile charity event that provides AAC devices to individuals with communication needs - including Wonder Boy. Aunt Katie ran in my place. Super Daddy and Amaze Girl competed together. Wonder Boy, Aunt Kimmie and I were to be cheerers.
We’d watched the sea of runners in yellow shirts gather along the tree-lined road. A whistle blew and the crowd surged forward. Wonder Boy clapped. “Hooray!”
“Do you want to run?”
“Yes, I do!”
What could it hurt? I thought. We’d go a bit, then circle back to Aunt Kimmie, food and games. Then we’d head to the finish line to cheer for Super Daddy, Amaze Girl and Aunt Katie.
At a nod, Wonder Boy ran. Arms swinging, knees pumping, head high, he cheerfully lapped one runner after another. We did not see a circle-back-to-the-start point.
Half-way through the course, as it sometimes happens in autism (and life), our race suddenly, inexplicably ended.
Wonder Boy stopped. He walked backwards. He screamed. He flailed. His scalp glittered. A homeowner called from a nearby yard. “Do you need water?”
There are times it’s not practical to carry a communication device: bathtime, for example. While using the restroom, the machine stays in the hall. Wonder Boy does not jump on the trampoline with his talker draped across his chest. And he doesn’t generally have it on him when he’s involved in active play. Like running.
Very unfortunately, Wonder Boy’s talker had been left at the race start.
We were halfway through the course and alone. The last runners and end-of-line vehicles were gone. I had a broken arm, Wonder Boy was nearing melt down and I was in tears. What were we to do?
There was a rhythmic whirring, like the benevolent thrumming of angel’s wings. Heaven reflected light on a golf cart hovering nearby. The dark-haired stranger at the wheel was shrouded in a golden halo. “I’m Robert,” he said, in a smooth voice. He pointed to his purple Sophie’s Run tee shirt. “I’m a race volunteer. Can I help?”
Wonder Boy slid into the cart beside Robert. I cozied next to Wonder Boy, who was enraptured by Robert and his machine.
Robert gently calmed a grandmother’s tears and eased a little boy’s confusion. He took us to a water station and drove us to the final leg of the race, where Aunt Katie was waiting.
“Do you want to run?” she asked Wonder Boy.
“Yes, I do!” he replied.
Wonder Boy and Aunt Katie raced over the final bridge and crossed the finish line together.