Supreme Court Observations
The Autism Detective An Interview with Anne Dachel

We See You

We see youNote: You must share this poignant slice of all of our lives with others. That's your homework today. And grab a tissue. You'll need it. XOX

By Cathy Jameson

We had a busy weekend last weekend with the kids in different directions.  We couldn’t all be at a friend’s celebration on Saturday afternoon but would finally meet up later around dinner time.  Having spent most of the day out of the house, I was tired and didn’t want to go home and make dinner.  I had Ronan with me, and he didn’t want to go home yet either.  He knew we’d be driving by one of his favorite restaurants, so I called my husband and asked if he and the girls could meet us. They could. 

We had to wait about 20 minutes to be seated, so we spent that time browsing in the restaurant’s store.  Always a treat to see the ‘old timey’ games and candies, Ronan was so patient as we reminisced.  I was getting hungrier by the minute, and I imagined he was also.  Just as I thought I might need to grab a snack from his bag, the host called us to a table.  We are usually seated by one of the large windows toward the middle of the restaurant when we eat there.  This time the place was busy and got seated at the very first table customers have to walk by as they enter the dining room.  It wouldn’t bother any of us because we were so hungry and would not care that we were next to a busy area. 

I was glad we got the table when we did.  While the kids started to look at the menu, I noticed that other parties were soon standing at the host’s station asking how long it would be to get seated.  

Our server was quick to help and clued in that Ronan was not going to order for himself.  She watched us sign to him and watched him respond with signs back to us.  Ready to help, she got his drink order right away.  While we waited some more, because the restaurant was still very busy, we chatted, we looked at pictures, and we made sure Ronan was happy.  He was.  I gave my attention back to the girls, but out of the corner of my eye, I saw that someone else was watching them, too. 

The few minutes before, my daughters were taking pictures of Ronan and posting them in our family chat.  Laughing at the edits they made and carrying on like the best of friends, we were getting a little silly in our little corner.  Maybe that’s what caught this older fellow’s attention.  I glanced toward his general direction, not staring directly at him yet.  Ready to pounce, if needed, I slowly turned and faced him. The girls with their backs turned, were oblivious.  My husband, though, who was seated next to me at our round table also realized that we had an audience.  Then we noticed that this guy was not alone.  

Another man was with him. 

I wasn’t nervous.  Other places in that area would’ve had me scoop up my kids and run.  But we were in a safe place with tons of people, mostly families, enjoying an evening out.  The older man didn’t look out of place.  Neither did the younger man behind him.  Looking past the older man at the younger man now, I saw something familiar.  His stance, his low tone, his expression…

It all looked a little like Ronan.  

Trying to not make it obvious, my gaze immediately moved back to the older man.  He was much older, more like a grandfather.  He was tall but his back was hunched, almost like he was carrying a large weight.  The young man, who had telltale signs of developmental delays the more I observed him,was thin and much, much younger.  If I had to guess, I would’ve said he was in his teens.  

He was actually in his late 20s.

I know that because the older fellow approached us.  I could tell that he wanted to say something almost as soon as I saw him staring at us.  It was a few long minutes of silent watching, and never a creepy kind of watching.  He looked at Ronan, I mean really looked at him.  Then he looked at Ronan’s sisters.  He turned his head and looked at both me and my husband, then back to Ronan.  

During that, the girls were engaging in their own conversation for the most part, but they would try to get Ronan to respond.  It’s typical behavior that they always do, but I think it took the man by surprise. It took him by surprise, but it also made him smile.  That’s when he came over to our table.  

Hunched over, with arthritic fingers, and a slow gait, it was just a few steps he had to take, but it made a huge impact.  

He thanked us, and he encouraged us to please continue to treat Ronan like we had been doing.  Walking to Ronan, he put his hand on his shoulder, patted it gently and with so much compassion.  “He’s 27,” the fellow said as he pointed to the young man behind him.  “He’s 27…his name is Max*, he’s non-verbal, but he’s more like a 7-year-old.”  *name changed

I choked up.  Ronan’s sister, Izzy choked up, too.  Wiping tears from our eyes, we were filled with emotions we didn’t expect. He and my husband spoke for a minute, but I remained speechless. I thought we were going to get breakfast for dinner and then scurry home.  

We got so much more than that.  

As the older man had started to stare at my family, I had begun to stare at the young man.  Assuming it was a grandson, I thought how amazing that he took him out to eat.  Going out takes a lot of work.  It takes guts, too, for some people.  Sometimes it’s easier to just stay home. But for us, we always want to try to do things together as a family.  Even though this was one of Ronan’s favorite places, anything could set him off.  Thankfully, nothing did.  If anything, this night out set something else in motion.  

We were seen and made an immediate connection.  Very quickly, Ronan’s little sister wanted to do something about it.  The older man motioned for the younger to follow him as their table was called. As they walked away, Izzy wiped her eyes and asked, “Can we pay for their meal?” Trying really hard now not to burst into tears as I answered her, I said, “Oh, honey. That’s exactly what I was thinking we should do!”

So, we did.  

Izzy excused herself from our table, scooted back to the store and purchased a gift card.  Once we were finished eating, she took the gift card and walked over to the men who befriended us.  “I know how hard it is to take of someone like Max, so we wanted to show our kindness and give you one less thing to worry about.  It’s not much, but we wanted to give you this for your dinner.”  

The older fellow balked, “It was nothing, no, no, you don’t need to…”

But Izzy insisted.  

Normally I would never let my teenage daughter cut off an adult, but this time, she managed to do that while being incredibly respectful, compassionate, and kind. Trying not to tear up again, she said, “We know you can pay for it, but please, we really appreciate you.  We want you two to enjoy your dinner here like we got to.” She gave him the gift card and caught up with us as we were heading to the door.  

“I’m really proud of you.  I’m glad you got to represent us in that moment, too,” I said to her.  We hugged, and then like usual, we split up and went in different directions—the girls off to see friends and the rest of us back to the house.  

Heading home, I was thankful for how well Ronan did.  It was a really long day for him, and he handled all of it very well. I was also thankful for a good dinner out with my silly family. I was thankful for connections we made and for compassion shared.  Special needs families aren’t always treated with respect.  Tonight, we were, and my children quickly offered that to another family.  I know they’ll be stronger because of all they witnessed that night. 

Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.

Rest in peace, Mandisa.  May your music continue to inspire those who, every now and then, feel down and out. 


Carolyn McKyle

It sounds like your guardian angels nudged you to go there and meet those two!

Gerardo Martinez

What a heart warming story. This type of story restores your faith in people. The kindness of strangers is beyond measurement at times. Thank you for sharing!
Blessings to all!


I'm not crying. You're crying.


Cathy-what a beautiful story you have told us about your very emotional and heartwarming experience at the restaurant. I am in tears as I write this because I can picture my family with my autistic son in the same situation, and how wonderful it was that you offered to pay for their meal. God Bless you and your family always.

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