Monday, March 29, 2010

"Excuse me, is she Down's?"

Yikes.

Usually, when a conversation starts out that way, it doesn't really go well after.

I mean, it's not that I'm necessarily rude in response, but I do tend to walk away hurt when asked.

Or at least I used to.

We had a pretty good weekend around these parts. On Saturday, we enjoyed a 70 degree day at the beach, followed by a bonfire that night. So, in the effort to help Sunday live up to its predecessor, we decided to have brunch at a popular eatery that just happens to be owned by a Hollywood legend (no spottings, but it was awesome just the same). Stuffed and happy, we headed into town and not long after parking the car, we approached a couple sitting on a bench with their two small dogs.

Playette loves dogs and these two were just her size so I figured it would be a good opportunity for some real-life exposure since she tends to only see them in books or from afar for the most part.

The dogs were friendly, the couple was polite, the sun was shining.

Things were good.

And then it happened.

"Excuse me, is she Down's?"

[sic]! [sic]! [sic]!!!

Gah.

Stab me in my heart, why don't ya?

I mean, it is what it is, but this was a Normal Family Moment and that damn extra chromo just found a way to make its presence known.

I felt my face tighten and I knew that I should respond.

"Yes, she has Down syndrome."

At least I got a little People First Language in there. Always with the educating.

But I hated that I couldn't stare the man right in his eyes and give him the "And what's it to ya?" look that I was feeling from the pits of my soul. I wanted him to know that it was no big deal. I needed him to see that we were ok. This stranger? I wanted all of that to go from me to him, even if I'd most likely never see him again after our brief encounter.

But instead, I all-too-quickly gathered my child up and mumbled a good-bye to the couple and their dogs and moved toward the next corner where BD and his friend were waiting for us.

Except I heard something. As if there was a time delay, kind of like the conversation we were having was via satellite, I heard...

"My sister's Downs. She'll be 46 this year."

Aha. So that's why. There was the connection.

So even while I was saying my, "Have a great day," and encouraging Playette to grab my hand and leave her new found furry friends behind, I wanted to stay. I wanted to know more.

Missed opportunity, I guess.

We reached BD and his friend on the next corner and I said something about what had just taken place, but not enough for them to fully understand.

Moments later, after realizing that we were heading in the opposite direction of our destination, we were at that second corner again. More than sitting on the patio of some pub, I wanted to be back on that first corner.

So I told BD that Playette and I would meet them there shortly. Because we were going back.

Thankfully, the couple was still there, soaking in the sun on that first corner, along with those two little dogs.

I sat. We talked. I learned. She played. We got around to introducing ourselves.

=====

The man's sister loves those little dogs, too, you know.

No, Playette is not deaf. She uses ASL to bridge the gap between her ability to communicate and her ability to speak verbally.

The sister is older and was very sick when she was little.

Playette would probably enjoy having a dog of her own.

His parents started a family business right up the street several decades ago and it's quite popular to this day.

They must have been trailblazers.

Won't we bring Playette over to the store some time for some ice cream or cookies?

=====

Back and forth we went, the walls coming down with each sentence spoken until, finally, it felt ok to leave.

This was a good thing.

I looked up that man's business earlier today and found the website. In the "About Us" section, there was a family photo. Obviously taken years ago, there were the parents, two tall brothers, and a shorter sister being embraced. There she was. Seeing her smile made me smile.

We'll absolutely be making time to go get that ice cream.

17 comments:

Beth said...

Sounds like it ended better than it started! Hope you enjoy that ice cream, and I hope you meet the sister!

Michelle said...

now those are the kind of encounters that I like! :)

Lisa said...

Wow. Totally crying here. That there was magic.

heather said...

I've found that most people who ask me about Morgan are asking out of kindness and because their lives have somehow directly or indirectly been made better because of a personal relationship with someone who has Down syndrome. What a great experience!

ks_kristi said...

I am so sending you a dog! Yes, that is what I got out of that;-) Of course that was after I stopped my tears, girl you need to write a book. This is good stuff you are teaching all of us. Seriously think about it! I do recall you once wanted to go to school to be an English major. hmmmm.

Miss ya and BTW this whole ww point thing is a huge eye opener!

YOU ROCK!

The Sanchez Family said...

I'm totally crying here too. OMG....you had to go and write this beautiful post and mess up a girl's eye makeup!!! :) That was meant to be all the way around...what a beautiful day it did turn out to be!!!

Cate said...

that is awesome. I'm so glad you went back. and 46...that is many lifetimes ago.

(Nosy gossip types want to know: which hollywood legend?)

Karly said...

Good for you, having the courage to go back. It's easier to just keep walking sometimes...Enjoy the ice cream. :)

Beth said...

You did yourself (and them) a great favor by heading back there!
It's hard work to not get offended when people seem so intrusive.

Enjoy the sweetness of that ice cream!!

TUC said...

Cool, very very cool.

Linda said...

Going to bed now. I've had my "good cry" for the day. Good for you for going back!

Michelle Z said...

You're so good at actually talking to people - first the mother & son at the airport, and now a random stranger who approached you. I'm so impressed! I want to be like you when I grow up :)

Adelaide Dupont said...

This post started with a cringe and ended up cool beans!

Mommy to those Special Ks said...

Aww that gave me chills!!! SO glad you went back! If you go have ice cream, you have to tell us about it!

Monica Crumley said...

How brave of you to go back. I'm glad it ended well. That's really a beautiful interaction and so innocent in their question about Miss M. Obviously People First Language wasn't used when his sister was young, so they probably missed the boat on that one. I guess you have an opportunity to educate them on how it is having a child with Ds today. Enjoy that ice cream :-)

Kelly said...

Wow, what an amazing story! And good for you to finish that conversation. I'm sure that encounter has left it's mark on both of your hearts. It definitely touched mine! I just love stories like this! Enjoy that ice cream:)

My name is Sarah said...

What a great story. I would like to know more about the business. Does the sister work there? Well hope you get your ice cream.