Several years ago Dear Abby printed a letter from a mother whose child was born with Down’s syndrome. Mom said she was often asked what it was like raising a child with a disability and she said it was like planning a trip to Italy—learning the language, reading the brochures, boarding the plane to Italy, then unexpectedly landing in Holland.
Everyone around you is going to Italy and bragging about their special plans, and you mourn the fact that you don’t get to go to Italy too. However, if you spend all your time wishing you were in Italy, you will miss the natural beauty that surrounds you in Holland.
And why do I retell this story? Well, I can identify with that letter from that mom. When I was sixteen I had a VERY clear picture in my mind depicting what my life would look like. I would get married, I would be on stage performing in plays, I would have babies, they would grow up wonderful and perfect, they would get married and have babies, and we would all live happily ever after.
Thankfully, none of my three children were born with any kind of disability and in fact they were all born healthy, beautiful, smart, and strong. However, my life has not turned out the way I planned it. I planned my life’s trip early on and I surrounded myself with many friends with whom I planned to share the journey. Those friends and their families went to Italy without us while my family went to Holland.
My trip wasn’t always pretty. In fact, I’ve been to slums and ugly out of the way hovels. I’ve seen flowers and garbage, green grass and manure, blue skies and stormy darkness. I’ve been to places few of my friends have ever encountered. I have framed snapshots displayed on the many shelves in the many rooms of my memory and if anyone is interested I’ll share the high and low points of my trip so far.
Yeah, it’s sometimes hard to hear everyone around me talk about his or her joyous experiences in Italy. I’ve always wanted to go to Italy. But you know what? I’ve been to secret places they can only imagine. The scariest part of my excursion was when the kids got lost in a strange land. I didn’t think I’d find them and the locals were of no help at all! But in the end, the kids were found and we continue the journey together.
So…we’re not in Italy, but we’re traveling together. And the adventure continues.