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Beyond Acceptance

Posted Feb 23 2010 12:00am

Last night I caught a few minutes of the Olympics. There was a segment in which Bob Costas sat down with Tom Brokaw, and they were talking about former Olympic snowboarder hopeful, Kevin Pearce, who sustained critical head injuries while training in Utah in December. Kevin remains hospitalized and is undergoing rehabilitation. His doctors and family hope that one day he will be able to speak again, and walk unassisted again. Life can change in the blink of an eye.

The segment on TV revealed that Kevin is the youngest of four boys in what appears to be a loving, close-knit family. I was really struck by the interviews with his family members.

And then, there it was: one of Kevin's brothers, a young man by the name of David, has Down syndrome. There was footage of Kevin, before his accident, with David, and then interview footage of David talking about his brother. I stood there watching with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. And a feeling of peace washed over me.

It's the exact feeling I had when I saw Finn pull up to standing by himself for the first time a couple days ago. This little voice inside me whispered, "He's going to be fine. He is fine."

I know that Finn is never going to fit into the parameters of what most people consider "normal" or "typical." I know he will talk differently than most, and walk differently. I know that he will never be a brain surgeon or a rocket scientist. I know that he will always have limitations that most people don't have.

That's, I guess, the "down" side of Down syndrome.

But I don't care. I had this quiet realization recently - very recently: I would not change a single thing about Finn. No, I would not even change the fact that he has Down syndrome if I could. It was not all that long ago that I would have made the opposite statement. It wasn't long ago when I felt and said, "I love Finn with all my heart, but if I could take away the Down syndrome? Yes, I would." I am realizing now, though, that my heart, and maybe my head, are in a different place now. I don't know where the change has come from. I think the path of acceptance is a winding one, with lots of corners, bumps, valleys, potholes, and sometimes even hairpin turns. There is a lifetime ahead of Finn, and I am not fool enough to think that there won't be times in the future when I might despair, when I might hate the Down syndrome.

But today, right now? Finn is perfect in my eyes - exactly the way he is. I can't imagine him any different from who he is, and truth be told, that extra chromosome he sports in all his billions of little cells is an integral part of him. Without Ds, Finn would be a completely different Finn. I don't want a different Finn. Would I change the world? And all it's misconceptions about people like my son? And all it's cruelty and indifference? Yes, most definitely. But Finn? I wouldn't change a single thing about him.

I feel at peace.

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