As Davis has grown up, there has been a series of television commercials for an allergy medicine running frequently. The images are blurred until the actor takes the medicine, and then the blur slowly rolls back from a corner of the television image and soon everything becomes “Claritin clear.” And so it is with Davis.
When we started out eleven years ago, everything was blurry. We would desperately squint for any glimpse of what a toddler or five-year-old or a teenager with Down syndrome would be like. Although there was no pill to take for clarity then, in our heart of hearts I think we knew we weren’t ready for clarity anyway. So we waited.
At the playground a few years ago, I got a glimpse of a boy walking up a slide and and as I turned to scold him for going the wrong way, he smiled at me and I had a Claritin moment. This was Davis at five. It had all worked out o.k. This was what I was so desperate to see when he was born – the image of a boy navigating the playground in his own way and in a way that is just fine.
When I still have moments of my own blurriness, wondering what it is all about, still with some hope for clarity on who I am and what I bring to this world, this now eleven-year-old turns to me, sweeps my chin with his gentle hand and says “you’re so pretty mommy.” This is clarity that I can live with.
When the speed of this life keeps our family on the fast track and we are about to race through dinner, Davis is the one to call us to grace, holding on to the traditions of this life tighter than any of us who surely need those traditions more.
When I struggle with what might become of my self-centered twelve-year-old and how he will make it in this world if he doesn’t shape up, he grabs Davis’s hand after a tumble and says “are you all right, honey?” and I have clarity that he will abandon his childish ways at some point and will in fact become a caring adult human being.
Not all of the moments of clarity are as satisfying. Moments of clarity also strike in a cryptic note sent home from the teacher about Davis’s behavior or in a neighbor’s comment that all three neighborhood children play so well together when really there are four but she refuses to acknowledge Davis among the others. But I can withstand this. And the blurriness of whether I could be strong enough fades as I find out that I am.
We still squint to imagine Davis as a teenager or Davis as an adult. But the desperation is gone, previous moments of clarity having reassured us. What is so difficult about the blurriness at birth is that there is nothing to hold on to. There often is no experience of clarity and light when the baby with Down syndrome is born. Sadly for many, myself included, at first there is only the experience of darkness.
It is a wise and good thing to remember the stages of the journey. Sometimes we hesitate to share photos of our toddlers and preschoolers with those just joining us on the journey, knowing that amidst the hurricane of emotions whirling around the new mother, she needs less an image of how fine her child will be and more the assurance that light will follow the darkness in the way that morning follows night.
I promise you I have seen with clarity that it does.