Dear Father: I once watched you and your adult son, who has Down Syndrome, enjoying an outdoor summer concert together. I still think about that day, because I couldn’t stop staring at the two of you (but not for the reason one might think). The relationship you have with your son was one of the most beautiful, precious things I have ever seen. It brought tears to my eyes. I wanted to talk to you and your son so badly, but out of respect for you (and my husband, who gets embarrassed when I make a scene) I simply observed from a distance. But today, as I reflect on what I witnessed, you continue to have my admiration.
First of all, let’s talk about your son. He is awesome. His gleeful abandon as he experienced the music and his love of dancing was infectious. And clearly he has rhythm. He kept right in sync with the drumbeat that he so obviously loved, plus that Slinky he was waving around in time to the music was a nice touch. I was concerned at one point that others may be looking at his unique dance moves with scorn or derision, but to my relief that did not occur. There was simply happiness and laughter and music. The rest of the crowd seemed to appreciate your son’s enthusiasm.
And then there was you, as you danced with your son and watched him freely float about the dance floor. Since he is an adult now you have obviously been parenting for many years, yet it seemed to me as you looked at your son that you still saw him as your little boy. I have my own little boy with some special needs, and lately I have been feeling very tired. I was encouraged by the fact that there was no weariness visible in your eyes, only love. You smiled as he lost himself in the dance, and his joy became your joy. I took note of the way you sometimes watched from a distance and allowed your son space to express himself, yet gently guided him in the right direction when needed. You were amazingly tender and patient and attentive. Any child would be lucky to have a father like you.
When the grand-babies arrived the scene got even better. It was beautiful to see how excited your son became when his little nephew arrived, and to watch him lovingly stroke that little head. I watched how you wrapped your arms around that baby and your son, and then the three of you danced together. It was a beautiful dance. You are obviously also a doting grandfather, and you are leaving an incredible legacy to your grandchildren through your positive example. They will grow up knowing not only how to be kind, compassionate people, but also how to be more accepting towards those who may be different in some way.
As other relatives continued gathering on the dance floor I saw a family united. How wonderful that someone with Down Syndrome could be born into such a caring, close-knit support system. They all seemed to treat each other with acceptance and respect and love. I am sure you have had many incredible adventures together over the years, like the exuberant dance party that weekend.
Dear Father, I don’t know if you will ever read this, but I want you to know that I admire you. It was a privilege to “meet” you, even if from a distance. Watching you and your son inspired me, touched me, and taught me. In those few moments I learned a lifetime of lessons, and not just about special-needs parenting. Your behavior made me want to be a better parent and a better person. The kindness and joy that I saw in your eyes~ I want that. The connection that you had with your children and grandchildren~ I want that, too! Thank you for showing me such a beautiful example of family and love. I wish you all the best, and hope you keep on dancing.
The concert we attended was at an outdoor mall over the July 4th weekend. Maybe one day the Father will read this and recognize himself.
An additional shout-out to the Kings of Swing… you guys and gal(s) ROCK and your concerts are always a treat. Thank you!