20 March 2011

So Little and So Huge

Up to three years ago, I was living in a very cosy little life. Of course I knew that my environment was going to change because grand-motherhood was approaching, but how different could that be from the “same-old same-old” habitat I had known for so long. I had lived through many experiences, acquired a wide ranging knowledge, seen and heard a lot, taking on board some ideas and putting others aside. In my mind, I thought I was “wise” and all I now needed to do was enjoy this wisdom.

And then, on the 10th March 2008, Cathal joined our family. On that day, our lives took a little boat trip, but we did not reach the shores we had anticipated. Instead, we stumbled onto a new world, stepping on shaky ground, in total shock, in tears, in pain, in anguish. To say that Cathal’s diagnosis of Down Syndrome and of Congenital Heart Defects took us totally by surprise would be an understatement.

Personally I knew next to nothing about Down Syndrome. My initial reaction was more of concern regarding the immediacy of Cathal’s heart condition. And the following 16 months had many traumatic moments that I will never forget. But the under-lying presence of Down Syndrome gave me the springboard for a shift in my life priorities.

Yes, Cathal has Down Syndrome. So? He may take more time than other children his age to understand some things. His little body may not be ready at the same time as other children’s to acquire some skills. But he will understand them, he will acquire them, in his own time, at his own pace.

Cathal is teaching me patience, because I cannot rush him.

Yes, Cathal has Down Syndrome. So? He has it in him to do whatever he is capable of doing. I is simply a question of giving him extra opportunities to discover his abilities than with other children: creating an environment, promoting a potential to allow him to grow as far as he can.

Cathal is teaching me faith, faith in him as an individual, faith in his own, personal, abilities.

Yes, Cathal has Down Syndrome. So? He may need to work a little harder than most to achieve, but when he does achieve, no matter how small this achievement may be, the joy we feel is all the greater.

Cathal is teaching me appreciation, of simple joy in the smallest things.

Yes, Cathal has Down Syndrome. So? He has his own strong personality, full of goodness, full of love, full of tenderness and gentleness, full of strong opinions, full of courage, perseverance and determination.

Cathal has taught me that he IS not Down Syndrome, he IS himself, and just happens to have Down Syndrome, just as I have green-brown eyes. He is him, as much as I am me.

Before Cathal joined our family, I thought that I did respect all people. I have since realised this was very much a generalisation, on the surface. The way his parents faced the events following his birth, the courage and determination they showed so quickly to do everything in their power to fight for him, courage and determination that is now manifest daily in all the small but necessary gestures they do for him, make me feel very proud of my daughter and the Dad.

And because of Cathal, I have in the last three years come to know so many people from the wonderful world of Special Needs and Disability, some of whom I now call my friends. Every one of them is Special in his or her own way, but most of all they are special to me because I can in confidence accept them and respect them simply for who they are.

Cathal has taught me the true sense of Respect for others.

3 - 21: On this World Down Syndrome Day, I am celebrating the huge and fundamental changes an extra little chromosome made to my life. I am celebrating my love for a most wonderful human being. Cathal, I would not change you in anyway, you are the most perfect grandson I could have ever wished for. Thank you for being you.


Fiona said...

That was a fabulous tribute to Cathal on DS Day. You have me in tears here!!!

You are a very special Grandma - Cathal is as lucky to have you as you are to have him!

best wishes to you all

Eleanor said...

Fantastic Blog.

As a mother of a boy of 4 who also happens to have been born with DS, I know where you are coming from.

Jeffrey Goble said...

So very well spoken, thank you. I wonder along with you how much we learn from from these who often have voices that aren't heard. I delight with you through your stories, pictures, and video of Cathal's life with you. It just reinforces one of the things that I've learned from my Emma; how much greater this life can be if we just set aside our pride and prejudices to see others' as not so different, no matter what they may seem to be at first glance.
Great Post!

jazzygal said...

A fabulous piece fabulously written nan. A wonderful tribute to your wonderful Prince.

Cathal was most certainly born into the right family :-)

xx Jazzy

Nick McGivney said...


Hear ya loud and clear, Nan P. Of course, in all this lovely stuff it's easy to forget what a lucky boy Cathal is to have such a fantastic Nan.

Paula said...

I believe we're all given the children that will fit in with our abilities. Sounds like Cathal was given a Nan that fit perfectly. Lucky boy.