Last year I wrote this story about my oldest child, Luke. Although my story relates to filial love rather than romantic love, I still thought it was suitable for Valentine’s Day, and because the T-shirt referred to in the story is a Ron Paul rEVOLution shirt, I couldn’t resist posting it!
“That says ‘LOVE,’ like me!”
Two years after my son Luke was born, we went on vacation to a family-friendly resort in Mexico. While I was swimming in the big pool with Luke, a woman came up to me and said, “How old is he, Mom?” I said, “two.” She bade me follow her and led me to her family. She introduced me to her husband, her two daughters and her son, a real corn-fed looking blonde teenager who had Down syndrome, like Luke. I was still struggling to understand what life would be like with a child who had Down syndrome so I was happy to meet her son, but as had happened before when I met people with Down syndrome, I was completely lost trying to communicate with him. His language was totally unintelligible to me. As a well-educated person and voracious reader with the gift of gab, all of my interest in human interaction consisted of exchanging ideas. I couldn’t get anywhere with this kid and finally gave up. I asked the parents a few questions beginning to think about politely exiting. As the conversation was winding down they mentioned what a joy their children were to them, and pointing to their son, now back by the pool, the father said, “Just look at him, he’s all love!” But all I saw was a boy with a chromosomal abnormality with whom I could not imagine having any kind of relationship. I truly could not see what they saw, but I was comforted to think he made them feel good.
Six years have passed and Luke is a beautiful, articulate, charming 8-year-old boy. But does he ever keep me running! He gets into trouble every chance he gets, often running from the scene, mischievously looking over his shoulder to get a kick out of me dashing after him or catching a falling bookcase or battling whatever mayhem he left in his wake. He wasn’t potty trained until he was 5 ½, he needs continuous supervision at school so he doesn’t escape (he was found blocks from the school on two occasions last year), and he will dump his food on the floor just to watch the dogs come running. No matter when he goes to bed he gets up at 5:30 a.m. and will empty his dresser drawers if no one hears him stirring. In short, this kid is a lot of work! But it’s worth it. He’s hilarious and sweet and oh-so-cute. And he really is smart and clever and surprises us all the time. But I will say this for having a child this demanding: You have to be dedicated! It puts a strain on your marriage and requires that your other children make many sacrifices, but when it goes right, you can see how everyone in the family becomes richer for the adventure.
Nowadays I love to see other families who have children with Down syndrome. Those kids put a smile on my face. So not long ago, when my husband, Bryan, and I had the opportunity to grab a quick bite at Chick-fil-A–just the two of us–Bryan pointed out to me a young man who had Down syndrome sitting with his family on the patio. The boy looked healthy, happy, composed and confident. I got a closer look at him as he walked past us through the restaurant to get something he needed from the counter. As he walked by I observed to Bryan, “Everything that boy is, all that he can do, is the result of love. All his confidence and competence is the product of the people who love him taking great pains, time, effort and patience to make sure he could do what he needed to do and do it right and be proud and secure about who he is and his place in the world.” It touched me deeply to see in that one boy with his straight back and purposeful gait the years of love and selfless devotion his family must have committed to him. I hoped my own efforts would be that fruitful.
A few weeks later, my husband put on a shirt and in the design appeared the word “Love.” Luke looked at it and said, “Look Dad, your shirt says ‘love,’ just like me!” Bryan laughed to me, “he’s so funny—he knows he’s LOVE.” And in my mind’s eye I remembered the woman at the pool and her husband, and I recalled her son and, clear as day, I saw what they saw.