I am tired. Tired in a good way but – very tired.
I am a part of an online network made up of parents from around the world. We all have one thing in common. We love someone with Down syndrome.
This weekend a group of us met in Peoria Illinois.
All of us with a common thread. All of us knowing each other’s lives, journeys, heartaches, trials, errors, political stances, children, husbands, history, and none of that came into play when we fell into a familiar pattern of acceptance and love.
Some we have known each other online for years, months and some were strangers. I went to a meeting like this when Larkin was not quite a year old. It was in Waterloo Iowa. We had a blast but most of us were early to the path of Down syndrome and we were grieving in different ways and different places.
Last year I organized a meet up in Chicago, which we had to miss because Larkin was ill and hospitalized.
This year I organized Peoria. I have to admit it is kind of like planning a wedding. I want everyone happy. I want everyone to get along. I want everyone to come away with a piece of love, acceptance, and most of all – a friend. By Thursday of last week, I was exhausted and the thought of traveling for a weekend made me, well for lack of a better word, tired.
Jen and her crew and I packed up on Friday and off we went. I had contracts signed for the Peoria RiverPlex and the Embassy Suites in Peoria and while I had business to conduct for the weekend, I was ready for a cold beer and fellowship.
Here is what I came away with from the weekend, which has left me a little bit weak because I tear up thinking, writing, and talking about it.
My little girl is not far off from her peer group. She is atypically delayed but watching the other children made me realize that Larkin is ok and that I am doing all that I can to help her. Larkin is who she is and no matter what that is OK.
My husband met other parents who love, survive, are successful, capable and above all else, just like our family. He saw he is not alone. He connected with another father that is much like him. Golfer, football fanatic, easy going, funny and loves his child.
I met a young man named Russell. I know him from online. I know his mother very well. I know that she loves me in a way that only comes from a true connection. I love her from the tips of her toes to all the way inside her giant heart. I love Russell. What I “thought” of him is not what I came away with. Russell is AMAZING. He signs, plays, loves and interacts in ways that I could never have fully appreciated if I had never met him in real life. He gives me hope. He gives me peace.
Russell’s sister Regan and I hit it off to say the least. She is a freshman in high school. Beautiful, sweet, funny, sassy and knows exactly what she wants to do with her life. Did I mention that she is funny? That is right up my alley and I cannot wait for her mom to let her visit me soon! Regan took pictures of the weekend, which make me laugh hard, and once we put those into a montage I will post it.
Barbie, Julie, Bridgette, Adrienne, Jennifer x2, Jolie, Ann, Terri, Gillian, RK, Amanda, Amy, and Lisa – you are all amazing women who give me strength, confidence and hope. I love your children, families and know that no matter what life gives me, I have you all to fall back on.
I loved that all of our typical children made allowances for our challenged children. All played together in ways that were accepting and loving. I promise you that would not be found anywhere else but among those that understand special needs.
Larkin is playing at my feet tonight. My spirit is strong but I am weak with tears and finally letting go to what I call “feelin ok”. I am weak from the exhaustion of carrying around a burden that I needed to let fall.
Thank you my friends. Thank you for sharing with me. Thank you for the gift you gave without ever knowing you were giving to me.
Until this time next year. I love you all.
Aim & L
Thank so much for all of your work to get us together…definitely a highlight of our year. Hugs to Larkin!
I was hesitant about the whole thing, cuz I’m weird that way, but I’m glad we got to come over. Thank you for doing the detail work. You were worth the drive. :o)
How wonderful!!! I am looking forward to the Buddy walk on the 4th because of those very feelings. It was hard the first time but once I was there and looking around I began to cry. Every year when I think I’m past the point of tears, those emotions overwhelm me of knowing that I am standing in a group of many different lives who know and understand. I cry because I know that I am not alone, then I cry because I see the other father’s like my husband who have much in common and are down to earth but yet they aren’t alone. Jacob looks forward to the walk every year because he gets to connect with other men and share emotions that he can not do with even his closest friends and family. It’s overwhelming but a true blessing. I really hope to see you there this year if you go. My daugter Aleaya’s gym does a demonstration each year for Top Star Trampoline and tumbling. They are very supportive of the walk because we have one little girl with Down Syndrome who is an athlete in our gym and is a doll face. I wish we could have been able to make the trip to Peoria, but maybe there is always next year. Take care and you always remain in our thoughts. Hugs to you all from the Bates family!!!
Amy, I know you think we helped you but , you helped us all as well!! You are not alone.. so thank you so much for all you did! we all have special gifts!