So really... what self respecting 23 year old wants his mother to walk him to work everyday--HONESTLY could anything be ANY worse?
So of course I completely understood when Andy told me, "Go to your room" when I once again started to walk him to his job at the Santiago Bechtel office located across five busy city streets. And no..I really didn't take offense to his demand especially when it was coupled with "I do it alone!" (though, I did think his tone and remand sounded awfully familiar).
However, I did catch my breath and tried desperately to subdue the immediate flush of panic that ran through every artery and vein of my heart to the pit of my stomach as I envisioned my adult son with Down syndrome trekking off to work crossing busy Apoquindo, and its 4 arteries in Las Condes, Santiago--ALONE.
Crossing streets, which is no small feat in Chile, takes on the essence of a bullfight where the pedestrian is the toreador and the car the bull. As the light turns green cars charge out as snorting bulls while the pedestrian-toreador bravely makes his way across road. Each car comes up to the pedestrian-toreador to whirl past him and in between his companion walkers. All that is missing is a cape to twirl about the bull as the pedestrian-toreador skillfully stares down the encroaching car hypnotizing it to remain still long enough to allow him to pass to the other side of the street. But Andy insisted he could do it, so why should I believe otherwise?
Agreeing to his wish (well ok, demand), I returned to the apartment complex as I wished him a good day at work. Upon entering the building alone the concierge, who always gives Andy a hand bump each time he passes the desk, asked where Andy was. When I explained to him that today was Andy's first "Day of Independence" I could see the look of shock and fear flash across his face. As an uncle of a young teenage girl with Down syndrome this concept of independence was unheard of and quite frankly a little scary. I assured him that while I understood Andy's need for independence and his right to freely move about in his new community, I would be returning back out shortly to shadow him (or write down license numbers if needed).
I returned to the street to follow Andy and assure his walk to work would be successful and made the delightful discovery that within our short time here we have established quite a sense of community support. Our apartment is located on a small street that is also used as public parking managed by two attendants. One of parking attendants had followed after him to assure he was OK. Looking back the attendant caught my eye and then proceeded to kindly encourage Andy to dutifully return to his mother. Andy just looked at him and refused to budge shooting him a look as though to say, "Are you crazy?!" I assured the attendant that all was well and that it was fine for Andy to walk alone. The attendant then looked back at Andy, gave him a friendly smile and waved him on his way. He then apologized to me for interfering. I quickly assured him that I did not consider his actions interference. I thanked him for caring enough to keep a watchful eye out and let him know that it was reassuring that our little community cared. In the meantime Andy continued on, making it across all 5 streets to arrive safely at his work station and to return home at the end of the as an independent adult.