“I can do it myself, mom,” he said.

“Oh, I don’t mind,” she said, picking up his tray and taking it over to empty it’s contents in the trash and then stacking it where trays are left for pick up.

I don’t know if she saw his face, I doubt it, because people who think they are being helpful don’t often look. He was deflated.

He was probably in his late forties, she was about my age.

He was born into a time of low expectations, she gave birth in a time where disability and shame were co-mingled. But they are here, now, and he wants to live, here, now. He must have noticed the young teen with Down Syndrome, like himself, working stocking drinks into the cooler. He must see other young people with intellectual disabilities out on their own, taking buses, going shopping, or to the movies with friends. He must see that.

I say that because he tried to assert himself, to do something for himself rather than have something done for him. Coming from the land of low expectations meant that he’d be trapped by helpers for his whole life, he would have been denied the freedom to try, the freedom to fail and the freedom to learn. He wants to move, into here, into now.

The young teen with Down Syndrome comes over to his table, seeing that the tray were removed, and wiped it down.

They spoke briefly.

I couldn’t hear what they said.

But I saw the older man reach up and pat the shoulder of the teen, a congratulatory pat. I saw the young teen, beam a smile at the older man in response.

His mom returned, “There that’s done,” she said.

He didn’t thank her.