03 August 2009

August is here… and Dublin is It!

Apparently, August is here. Looking out, you would not think it. The summer seems to have been here for a few days in, when was it? May or early June, may be... and then truly gone. Where is the sun? And I mean lasting sun, not just a few minutes to tease you outdoors and then reward your courage with a magnificent and powerful rain shower. I mean, come on! Third rotten summer in a row... enough is enough!

Anyway, the calendar tells us that August is here, and Dublin is indeed it this month. A lot of people will experience our beautiful “Irish” weather the third week of this month, as they come from all over the world to the 10th World Down Syndrome Congress 2009.

I do believe that they are no coincidences, but rather “god incidences”. I do believe that things happen for a reason, though most of the time we, little humans, with our limited intelligence, cannot start to phantom the reasons why. I do believe that my agnostic god, whom I chose to call “Mother” (we all need a mother, and they have been times in my life when I needed a Mammy very, very badly...) guides me to what I need. So when I discovered last year, only a few months after Cathal’s birth and his diagnosis, that this world event was going to happen almost on my door step, I did feel Her power.

I decided earlier this year to attend this Congress. After all I felt as entitled as anyone touched by the grace of Down Syndrome to do so. I have been saying for years and years that I want to live to celebrate my 100th birthday, because life is so rich that I want to experience as much as possible. I have spend the first half going through childhood, teens, early adulthood with marriage and motherhood, studies, professional development. The second half started with the announcement of my promotion to grand-motherhood. And, as it turned out, to the world of Special Needs. The possibility of this had never entered my mind. Never ever! Shows how little I know of life! One way or the other, DS is going to colour my next 50 years or so. Better know more about it.

The other reason for my registering was that I need the contact with others who have been there, done that, and are wearing the T-shirt. As Cheri has put it in her most recent post, it’s being with people who “get it” that is important to me. Not only to gather information, but most importantly to share the feelings, the emotions, the reactions. Also I need the reassurance. Meeting other children with DS, meeting adults with DS, is something I know I need, deep down, to reinforce the feeling that Cathal will be “alright”. Because, of course, I do worry for him. And I do worry for his parents. It’s a normal reaction, but anything I can find to sustain my positive attitude, my hope for a rich and fulfilling life for him, anything at all is welcome. That is the reason I love meeting with Cathal’s friends, just to know that, like any other child of his age, he has that little circle around him. The theme of the Congress is Lifelong Living and Learning! It says it all.

So I am looking forward to those three days from the 20th to the 22nd August. It is also important for me to know that, apart from the main programme, there is one for the medical people, those who, long term, can make a difference to the quality of Cathal’s life. And then there is, for the first time ever, the 1st International Synod of People with Down Syndrome. As the website puts it: “The purpose of the Synod is to give adults and young people with Down syndrome an opportunity to meet their peers from across the globe and to discuss issues that affect their daily lives”. I find this so encouraging!

But then, there is another aspect to the congress that is of particular interest to me. If you look carefully at the programme, you will see that on Thursday 20th, in the afternoon, there is a session specifically for... that’s right! Grandparents! And guess what...? I recently got a call from the “powers that be” (e.g. organisers in DSI) asking me if I would host this session… Me! Host it! I reminded the person who rung me that, by then, the height of my experience of DS will be all of, let’s see, just over 17 months! I was told that the length makes no difference, it’s what we feel that is important. As I understand it, my role will be more of a facilitator than a speaker. Good! Because I want to hear from others. I need to hear from others.

We have no idea how many will attend this session. If they are only 3 of us in the room, we will have plenty to talk about I am sure, and plenty of time to do so. And if they are more, all the better! But if you are reading this and you are a grandparent, or you know of a grandparent who would be interested in this particular session, spread the word around. As a matter of interest, Irish DSI members can register just for one day of the congress if they do not want to attend the full 3 days - details here.

I am so looking forward to this Congress! And I do not expect anything special from it, but to meet with people and talk, listen, talk some more, listen some more! Hope to see a lot of you there!
And let’s not worry about the weather. All those travelling to Ireland for the Congress can be assured of a very WARM welcome – aren’t the Irish most famous for it?

Months ago, I had booked my holidays with work for the last 2 weeks of August. I thought: “ a couple of days to laze around the house, the three intensive days of the Congress as the highlight of my holidays, and then the following week to laze some more and recover”. Hmmm... Then the “beautiful and warm” summer faded and I realised I need Heat, I need Sun. So I started looking for a cheap holiday for that last August week. I did find a good value flight, direct from Dublin to Alghero in Sardinia. I have completed all my bookings this weekend. It’s turning out not so cheap after all: I am not one for sitting in the sun on the beach or by the pool: I LOVE the sun, but it has a very stormy relationship with my skin, as I turn a magnificent bright crisp vermilion red after a short time, and even after thickly coating Factor 50 Sun Block! So I have opted for a week of discovery of some of this Mediterranean island: natural sights and wonders (sea and mountains), nature parks, a bit of culture and archaeological sites, and gastronomy sampling. All in all, 7 days and 7 nights, 3 different hotels, a hired car, a guide book (I swear by Lonely Planet, never let me down), a detailed map, and my own company… so not that cheap, but at least a total break from day to day life. Quality “me” time to recharge the batteries and face the winter...


Mel said...

I am so jealous, of the Congress you get to go to, of your summer holiday, the list goes on!

Make sure you share some of the good bits here please Nan P.

Jeffrey Goble said...

They both sound like great times - I know you'll make the most of them all.

Lisamaree said...

Hey Nan! wanna write me a short post and give me a picture I can link to - to promote the congress (and your day addressing it!!)

This is so great to be hearing from a grandparent. We are kind of short on acceptance and understanding in the grandparent community in our family. So that is why I had to adopt you.


Clive said...


The very best of luck with the Congress. I'm sure you'll be a huge success.

Have a lovely time in Sardinia too - that sounds fantastic - a real away from it all break.

Take care
- the little man's mum

Cheri said...

Oh Nan...this is so cool that you were called upon to help facilitate the "grandparent" session.... I wish I could fly out to Ireland for a holiday and be apart of the World Down Syndrome Congress....you will have to keep an eye out for Dylan from DK Arts...remember I blogged about him a few months ago...he has Ds and owns his own art company....he is scheduled to be there in Ireland for the conference.

Okay I believe in "God-Incidences" too and after reading your post I decided I needed to follow through on something I have been toying around with in my head in for awhile.... I went camping last month and took a book with me that I ended up devouring...and as I read it YOU came to my mind many times. I can't explain the details of the book because I don't want to give it away, I knew nothing of the book when I started reading it, and I liked it that way. Anyway, I kept thinking I was going to email you for your address to send you a copy and never got it done....but after reading your post I would love if you would let me send you this book and if you want you can take it with you on your "me" time on your vacation after the conference. I can order it through Amazon...so it should get to you in time. :) I'd love to do this for you! :)