LOUISE: Becoming the Best
I never knew my mother was uncomfortable around people with disabilities. I was exposed to individuals with special needs at an early age. A young boy who rode my school bus was hearing impaired and used sign language. My pastor’s daughter was developmentally challenged and I was often in their home since his wife was the youth leader. One of my friends in college was blind. So when my youngest son, Jay, was born with Down syndrome and a severe speech articulation disorder, I felt somewhat prepared to handle the challenges of one whom the world considers different.
Not so with my mother. Though she loved Jay, she wasn’t sure how to interact with him. But since our visits were infrequent, given Jay’s fragile health as a baby, it never presented a major problem. However, many years later, things changed dramatically as my father developed dementia and began losing daily living skills. My mother became a caregiver and looked to me to help understand his needs. She suddenly realized that Jay and my dad were somewhat alike as she watched Jay gently pat his granddad’s hand and assure him it was okay when he forgot the words he needed to say. Jay definitely understood communication challenges.
After my father di