Today I'm so very thankful that I made a decision a couple weeks ago to say "no" to the busy work of being mom to Cate & Lucy. At the very last minute two weekends ago I decided to accompany my dad to Arizona to see my grandfather for his 98th birthday. Once the idea hit me that I should go and I had Ric see if I could get a flight, I debated the issue in my head for hours. Ric had plans to go to an away football game, there was laundry to do, Cate had her first cheer practice, I needed to clean up the areas of my house that are starting to look like a hoarder lives with me - lots of reasons not to go. But there was one big reason pulling me to go - a man who loved me and I hadn't seen in a year. I'm lucky enough to have a husband who said go and a mother who said she'd take the kids on Saturday - so I went. It was a quick trip barely over 24 hours for me but so worth it. My grandfather had conquered not just time but illness. At 92 he was diagnosed with Lymphoma and went through a full course of chemo and came out of it still kicking. With his amazingly sharp mind, he was not only able to tell me about traveling in a covered wagon and a sibling being born in a school house along the road, but also able to remember that Cate loves to swim and that I was renovating my house. We talked about some of his memories - especially meaningful to me was his recalling a fishing trip my dad and Lane took him on in Minnesota that Ric joined them on. I was so happy to realize that even though they only met a couple times, he remembered and liked my husband. But even more amazing to me was listening to him talk about Cate. He asked about Lucy and commented on her adorable attitude in one of the pictures I brought but it was obvious that he thought Cate hung the moon.
When I think about the changes in perceptions about children with special needs in his lifetime it is amazing. When he was young there was no option for kids like Cate except institutions and no early intervention or therapy to help them be productive members of society. He might have never known anyone with Down syndrome because of the likelihood of institutionalization in the bulk of his lifetime, I never even thought to ask him. His views on Down syndrome should be skeptical, wary, even negative based on the times in which he grow up. But you know his favorite thing to say about Cate - "Nothing is going to stop that girl" - and when he said it you felt his pride and love for her. He loved her even though he only met her one time when she was still a toddler. His love came from her being part of him, from his closely listening to my dad tell stories, and looking at the pictures or videos I'd send him. He was proud of her accomplishments because he could feel the pride in my dad voice as he talked about her and accepted it without question. Can you imagine how amazing that is for me to know? My family loves Cate because of who she is - the diagnosis is irrelevant even to the ones among us that have good reason to be unsure.
My grandfather passed away Monday night and even though I'm selfishly sad because I know he was ready, mostly I am grateful. Grateful he was able to live 98 years with a sharp mind, grateful he left on his terms - at home with family taking care of him, and grateful I got to say goodbye.