Thursday, September 24, 2015

Jared has left the building...

September 24, 2015

To the mother of the little girl with Down Syndrome whom I saw at Kohl’s today:

She won’t always be with you; she WILL go to school some day; she WILL get a job and have friends; she WILL carve out a life that fits her just right. 

Let me tell you why I know:

Two weeks ago, we dropped off our oldest son, Jared to college at Otsego Academy.  There, he will live in a house with some other young men and women. There, he will cook dinner and share in the household chores. There, he will go to the community health club for a workout, a local restaurant for some dinner, and nearby Colgate University for a class or two. He will be doing all this without me, without the “managing” that has enveloped his life for the past 22 years.  I won’t be telling him to grab a coat because the forecast calls for rain. I won’t be making sure he has gluten free choices when we go out to dinner.  I have not even heard from him for a few days, since his last text. He did, however, at the beginning, request that his bathrobe be sent so that he might avoid another embarrassing half-clothed middle of the night fire drill. Oh, how he laughed when he told me that story.  And now, I don’t know what he is up to; it’s been a few days. Like his brother Jake, a freshman at SUNY Geneseo, he is on to a new part of his life, a part that doesn’t include mom or dad. He’s in college.

The day we dropped him off, he looked a bit nervous. My heart was breaking for him, but I know this is what he needs. He needs to go away and be just Jared, not, my son with Down Syndrome.  He needs to make his own identity, his own friends, his own plans. He called that first night, sending me into another wash of tears that I couldn’t let him hear. He said he was kind of homesick, and it took everything in my power to not jump into the car and drive the hour and ½ to get him, to bring him home. But, I told him what we all tell our children:  “It will be ok; you are just tired; everything looks better in the morning”, words that I half-believed but had to sell. I hung up the phone and went to bed, waking an hour later in a panic because I hadn’t told him where his extra toothbrushes were. And there, in the middle of the night, I made my way to his room, dark and still smelling of him. I lay down on his bed, clutching the little lamb who watched over him during his heart surgery such a long time ago, and I cried. I cried as hard as I cried 22 years ago, when they told me my son had Down Syndrome, when they told me they weren’t sure when he would walk, if he would talk…  When I thought he might be with me forever. As I rocked and cried on his bed, keening softly so as not to wake my younger son and husband while they slept in other rooms, I was struck with the fact that I was crying because Jared was gone, because he grew up and left , just like he was supposed to do.

Randi Downs



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