I starting writing this post Thanksgiving morning and struggled with whether to just go ahead and post it or to be honest about what our day turned out to be before it could be published. It seemed the best way to support parents and caregivers with their complex special needs children is to be honest about our experiences. Often parents feel so alone because they think no one can understand. That is because those of us with the most complex children can’t or don’t always share our experiences.
What follows is the post original started Thanksgiving morning:
There is something else I have wanted to say for all these years since Billy Ray’s adoption in 1984. I have contemplated how to do it so that it would get to the right people. Would an open letter to Billy Ray’s birth parents in the newspaper be actually seen by them in such a large metropolitan area if they are still there.
William (the middle name Raymond was added at adoption for my now deceased husband and we call him Billy Ray) was born in December 1982 in southern state. During that time, we were on a waiting list with a doctor in our state for a newborn child with Down Syndrome. The year and a half we were number one on waiting list did not bring us a baby. Abortion was a more common to mothers who had prenatal testing and realized they were carrying a child with Down Syndrome.
Since Billy Ray came to us at 15 months old, I have often thought of his birth parents who felt they could not handle his Down Syndrome. I have wanted to hunt them down and say thanks for giving society the blessing that he is and thanks for giving our family the joy and, yes the sorrow, which has made the joy greater. Billy Ray is so much more complicated than they could have known when he was born, experiencing the dual diagnosis of Down Syndrome and Autism plus bipolar and ADHD. Still he has joy in life and shares it with us all. I am so thankful his parents gave him a chance to experience life.
I realize the likelihood of Billy Ray’s parents ever seeing this is slim. Somehow, I just needed to express it anyway this Thanksgiving morn.
Since filing that post away for another day, we have had our challenges with Billy Ray including physical aggression.
A discussion about the classic movie It’s a Wonderful Life on one of local television programs the other day made me think about another wonderful life, Billy Ray’s life. In the movie, an angel takes George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) around to many people and shows him how their lives would have been worse if George had never been born.
Raymond, my deceased husband, was changed dramatically by Billy Ray’s love for him. Because of his past experiences Raymond had difficulty relating to some people. During the last five years of his life Billy Ray became his reason to survive. Raymond’s older son said that Billy Ray was the best thing that ever happened to his Dad.
It would take a book by itself to explain the changes Billy Ray has made in my life. People frequently say how patient I am with Billy Ray. The truth is he has demonstrated a great deal of patience in teaching me what he needed me to be as his Mom. I am more tolerant and patient now than ever before but it is only because I have had the love of my son all these years.
The things that I share in my book Parenting Your Complex Child (AMACOM Books April 2006), my websites, this blog and the support that we have been able to offer other parents would have happened if Billy Ray hadn’t trained his Mom first.
He touches the lives of people unexpectedly. Former clients of mine with dementia who couldn’t remember me somehow remembered Billy Ray and he brought joy to them. Every week he delivers Meals on Wheels and touches people.
On behalf of all the people, Billy Ray has touched including but not limited to me, thank you to William’s birth parents for giving us this wonderful life.
Peggy Lou Morgan