Gabe always looks so happy. Has he changed your life? I was just wondering.It was such a simple statement, such a simple question. But it felt almost impossible to answer. Initially, I thought to myself (more like screamed),
"YES! Absolutely and in every way. In fact, change doesn't even begin to describe the enormity of the impact Gabe has had on my life."Then I began to feel bad about my reaction, as if it implied negative things about Gabe and my life with him. As if only bad things change my life. So, I considered other things in my life and asked the same question. I realized that my answer to those things would be the same.
Has my life changed since I;
spent a year as an exchange student?To every one of those I would also respond,
moved into my own apartment?
had my first child?
"YES! Absolutely and in every way."Important life events don't just change a life, they redefine it. Things that don't change my life are, by their lack of impact, inconsequential--of no consequence. As for Gabe, as is true with each of my other children, he is not inconsequential. Therefore, my life has most certainly been significantly impacted by him.
So, I consider again,
"How has Gabe changed my life?"What would probably be more accurate if I'm going to try to fully understand the intent of the question is,
"In what ways has Gabe, with Down syndrome, changed my life as compared to how my life was changed, in general, by my other children?"And if parents of children with special needs are honest, they will admit that more changes occur in your life as a result of having a child with special needs versus having one without special needs.
I could complete the answer to that question by saying, "Yes, Gabe has changed my life just as each of my children has changed my life." But to do so wouldn't really be giving a complete and honest answer to the whole question.
So, Lynda, here is a real answer to your question. Because you were wondering.
Since the day you asked me that question I have intentionally considered what I would be doing differently if I didn't have Gabe. Here are some things I noticed.
*When I took my teenagers and their friends to the water park I would have brought a book, sat in the coffee shop, and enjoyed a quiet afternoon. Instead, I climbed over 1000 steps and went down outdoor water slides, indoor water slides, slides on tubes, slides on mats, single tubes, doubles tubes, racing tubes, and gratefully floated the lazy river with Gabe.
*When I drove to Bemidji with Lisa and Gabe to visit Shane I would have walked and talked with Lisa and Shane. Instead, I walked and talked with Lisa and Shane AND met every dog on the paths at Lake Itasca, played frisbee, walked around a restaurant finding all of the unique cartoon character cookie jars, and slept on the floor in front of the door to our hotel room so I could prevent Gabe from playing on the elevator at 4:30 am (again).
*When I went to Owen's baseball game I would have sat in the stands and watched Owen play. Instead, I stood and watched him while I played catch with Gabe.
*When the grandchildren came to the house they would have moaned about being bored with the old people. Instead, they couldn't wait to come and play with Gabe.
*When I did the laundry I would have done it alone. Instead, Gabe pulled the things out of the dryer and tried to guess who they belonged to. I would not have laughed so much as I folded clothes.
*When I walked to the car from the rest area toilets I would have walked. Instead, I raced.
*When I came home from my future daughter-in-law's bridal shower I would have put down my things and gone about my business. Instead, I was greeted with a huge hug and, "You're home! Oh, I missed you! I missed you so much!" followed by another hug.
Gabe does look happy a lot. He is happy a lot, but not as much as he looks because I usually post pictures of him smiling. He can make my day and cheer us all up.
But some of the changes are hard. Gabe has had more health problems than my other children. His education requires more teamwork and research. He has been slower to communicate and it can be hard to know when he is being defiant or when he doesn't understand (and there is a lot of both). He is still not consistently toilet trained. He is not always aware of danger and doesn't articulate when he does understand so I struggle with how much freedom to give him.
But, even the hard things have produced some positive results. His health and education trials have opened doors to relationships I never would have made. His slow communication has made me more patient and observant. And the toilet training trials that have brought me to some of my lowest lows have brought me to a deeper, richer knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It's hard to imagine that it took dirty diapers to break me down and more fully open my heart and mind to God, proving that His ways are definitely not my ways!
The fact is, the trials that I have gone through with Gabe have brought about some of the richest and most gratifying changes of all. I have sought God in ways that I never did before. I have dug deeper into His word and striven more diligently to absorb and understand it than I ever have. In many ways, I was too capable and able to handle things and keep things under control. Gabe helped me to be more fallible.
I know that the things that 'pull the rug out from under me' are the ones that leave me lying on my back and looking up to God. Gabe can pull the rug out, and that gift is immeasurable.