An excerpt from our Christmas Letter 1997
We are looking forward to some winter weather this year – Monica and Greg are old enough to really play in the snow and our backyard is now fenced, so they should be able to get out a lot more. We never thought we were fence people, but having one of the little ones heading for the street at the same time the other headed for the creek was just too much for me. They are so happy to be able to enjoy their backyard more now. I will admit that an awful lot of the garden was harvested this year before its time and none of the raspberries made it to the house!
Our fall parent teacher conferences at St. Angela Merici were very nice. Rebecca, Gabe and Danny’s teachers all reported the kids are conscientious, hard-working, polite, and have friends. That’s all we needed to hear. I was quite upbeat to head to Monica’s school two days later. She’s in the same Fairview Public Schools classroom with the same teachers as last year. The teacher, the aide and the speech therapist were glowing with enthusiasm over her progress this year. As my back straightened and my proud smile broadened, they told me that “Now she keeps her clothes on”!!!! Every once in a while we are shaken back to reality, aren’t we? After that I didn’t even ask what else I never knew about last year. Monica is getting better at following directions and is starting to be able to say some words. Her receptive language is really growing. She is a terrific helper at setting the table and loading the dishwasher.
During Lent, I was able to go away for a weekend retreat; my first in about five years. One of the things I came to realize in a new way was about accepting the will of God. You know, we really never questioned why Monica has Down syndrome, we just figured it was part of the job of life for us. We know many couples now who did not have the upbringing or support that we did and had to struggle with this. Of course, like us, they love their kids with Downs to pieces now. But what I’ve been doing is seeing this job as having the goal of minimizing the Down syndrome as much as possible and that my success would be measured by how normal I could make her. And that if I’m doing well maybe people wouldn’t even notice she’s Down syndrome. What I see now is how I need to love Monica having Down syndrome because that’s God’s will. That’s where we are here and now. How often we say we’re accepting God’s will, but we mean we’re grudgingly going along with it. That’s different from loving it. The following weekend was Monica’s Preschool Sunday School program. Monica had to process in, sing songs, sit, stand, etc. at the appropriate times, including go up and receive her certificate when her name was called. She obviously needed help for all these and it was one of the first times we were publicly facing ‘everyone’ knowing she’s different. Later that day, one of our parish priests asked us if he could wash Monica’s feet at the Holy Thursday celebration of the Last Supper. Again, we were going to be where ‘everyone’ would see her. Well, what a confirmation to sit there watching Father tenderly wash and dry her feet and realize that he, as a servant of God, really wanted to wash her feet. This wasn’t just a nice little ceremony, this was real. I could feel so clearly God’s love for Monica – exactly who she is. And I was so happy to sit there with her on my lap, even in front of ‘everyone’. In day to day life, all this probably didn’t change what I do, just what is in my heart, . . . and I do still roll my eyes when after she’s had a tantrum in the grocery, some stranger tells me it’s a blessing to have a Special Child.