Every once in a while when I am with Vincent somewhere someone will come up to me and ask me if that is my son. In spite of my first thought being to answer something like ‘No I just found the kid outside’ or something similar for the hell of it, I still have not given that answer. Nine times out of ten it turns out that the person asking the question has a child/brother/sister/relative with Down syndrome and they just want to chat or share a story.
I just got back from the grocery store. And hold on, I do have a point where I am going. After entering via the fruits and veggies (which strangely enough seems to be located at the furthest corner in a Swedish grocery store as opposed to in the beginning in Austrian and American stores <= side note) , I spotted an older lady walking around with a lady with Down syndrome.
After over 5 years of experience, it is still not easy to walk up to a stranger somehow DS related, and start a conversation. In all seriousness, all we potentially have in common is a possible knowledge of an extra chromosome. I mean, I just do not walk up to ‘regular’ parents and start chatting when I go somewhere with Edgar.
So after having picked out a few things I really did not need, just so I could follow their shopping, I finally decided to talk to the older lady. I asked her if it was her daughter (who was away picking up corn flakes). She said yes, and why? Which by the way is a very likely answer I would give when approached in a similar situation.
I told her I had a 5-year-old with Down syndrome.
She said Aha, and walked on.
Ok I thought to myself, I guess she did not want to talk, and I moved on to shopping after my actual list (I made one Bookie, did not follow it at all though).
At the next aisle she came up to me again and asked again how old my son was. I said 5 and then we started talking about this and that and whatever. Her daughter was 43 years old and had not ben allowed to go to school. The state wanted her to live in an institution but the mom had refused.
She told me that sometimes people picked on her on the bus. Still. They would call her ret*rd and similar things. I asked her how her daughter handled that. And her answer brought a smile to my face: M, the daughter told the kids (or whoever it was) to shut up, and said that she may be a re*ard, but for them to keep their mouths shut because one day they also might have a kid just like her, and would they still laugh then?
This M grew up without any school. She had the whole system against her, and her parents fought hard to give her a future. She now works as an artist and has had her paintings in shows in Brussels and Paris. She works on her paintings in a place down town Graz with some other artists. She earns her money from selling her art work.
As always, without a single exception, I am glad I stopped the lady and started having a conversation with her and her daughter. Somehow things always workout in the end. And if they don’t, it’s not the end, right Cate?