Monday, December 1, 2008
Last night, on the way home from a wonderful Thanksgiving with my family, my elderly father reached into his pocket and pulled out a very small, stuffed panda bear. An old Christmas tree ornament based on the shredded loop of string at the top of it's head. In the darkness of the car he handed the bear to me and said, "I found this at home and thought the kids might like it." I immediately gave it to Olivia who, I knew, would care and play appropriately with it. We bid our fond goodbye's to Grandpa and cruised on home with thoughts of our family and the fun we'd had throughout the day. It had certainly been a great day!
When we got home, in the light of our kitchen, Olivia had the opportunity to examine the gift Grandpa had given her. The panda bear, a mere 3" tall, was patchy with yellowed fur. Some of the black had worn away too and his beaded eyes were gone. A beat up old thing... probably left over from my childhood many [many] years ago. Olivia looked at the bear with sadness and kissed it gently. She said, "Mommy, this bear is losing his fur. Maybe we can sew on some new threads to fill it in." I looked at the bear, thinking to myself that most of us would have thrown this beat up old thing in the garbage, and told her I thought the bear's fur was probably too far gone to fix. She took the bear back from me, kissed it again and, teary-eyed, asked where Grandpa had gotten the bear. I quietly told her, "Oh Olivia. This bear has probably been sitting under some old pile of newspapers in Grandpa's basement, rotting for years and years since Mommy was a kid". Big giant tears rolled down her face. Now, you might be thinking, as I was, though only briefly, that Olivia was not happy with the bear because it was old and decrepit. "Mommy" she whispered, "this bear has had no one to play with it all those years? He's been all alone with no kid to love it?" She began to cry in earnest. My eyes filled with tears too and I told her, "Well, now he has you. That's why Grandpa gave him to you. He knew you would take care of him and love him." She half smiled -- one of those sad but brave smiles -- through her tears.
She went to the drawer and pulled out some Sharpie markers and asked me to color in the fur where the black and yellowed fur had worn away. She suggested that the next time we come across two small white pearls we could sew them on for his eyes. Then, she ran to the playroom and came back with a large, stuffed, mechanical panda bear, placed the little bear in the bigger bear's arms and said, "Now he has a Mommy." I suggested that perhaps the bears could have a special place near her bed since the little one had gone so long alone and she brought him and his new Mommy upstairs and placed them at the head of her bed where they spent the night.
This morning, those bears sat at the breakfast table as she ate. My little Angel had been heartsick with the thought that a toy (to her, a tiny baby) had gone any length of time without a friend and without a Mommy. She hadn't cared that the bear was old and beat up at all. She only cared about him! The bear! She only cared about his feelings and his lonliness. I'm sure she'll see to it that this little bear, which she named Saint Patch (short for Patrick and representative of his patchy fur), will never be alone again.
Sometimes the Angel Amongst Us is sitting right beside us unrecognized. Sometimes, all you have to do is listen to their words and appreciate the thought behind their actions.
I think I've mentioned how happy my pets make me, right? http://walkonthehappyside.blogspot.com/2008/11/pets-pets-and-more-pets.html
So, now we're sort of officially in the market for a new dog for Csiba, our 12 1/2-year-old Chow Chow. Since we lost Isaiah, our 12 1/2-year-old lab/boxer mix to cancer in September, Csiba has been down dooby dooby do down down. It's not terribly surprising that she's so sad since they were raised together from pups and, being nearly deaf, she lost her ears when we lost Isaiah. So, here I am on-line, cruising http://petfinder.com/ for local dog rescue organizations in search of a good-with-kids/cats/dogs, kind, calm and quiet, BIG dog that will fit nicely into our 5-person, 1-dog, 2-cat and 3-fish family. I know, we're expecting a lot....Here's the amazing thing about this process... We've run into so many inspirational and caring angels out there working/volunteering their time to save the hundreds of adoptable dogs and cats that are abandoned daily by their owners for various -- some bogus, some not -- reasons. But, there's one person -- an Angel Amongst Us -- that I'd particularly like to mention, Lori of http://acq.petfinder.com/, who dedicates so much of her life -- as well as some of her husband's and son's lives too -- in pursuit of the best dog and cat owners for her many homeless, 4-legged charges. God bless Lori and the people like her who work tirelessly to save the innocent animals our society deems disposable.
So yesterday we asked to adopt a new-comer to their shelter, a very-pregnant, abandoned Boxer -- as well as fostering and then helping to adopt out her puppies when they're ready for forever homes of their own.... We might even consider fostering another one of their dogs just because she's a wonderful black-lab mix who needs a home and doesn't deserve to live in a cage!So, if you happen to live in/near the metro NYC area and you're inclined to adopt a pet, or if you have the heart and space to foster a pet, or if you have the time to volunteer to walk a few homeless dogs in the afternoon, or donate a dollar or two, please give Lori a call at (718) 424-3340. If you're not nearby, go to http://petfinder.com/ to view the needy animals and rescue organizations that need support in your local area.
Last Saturday morning I packed the kids into the mini-van for our bi-annual trek to one of our local colleges... to speak on behalf of people with Down syndrome. We do this at 4 local colleges in various areas of education -- Speech/Language, Psychology/Psychology for Exceptional Children and Education/Special Education -- for 2 primary reasons:  to allow students who aspire to work with children with special needs to meet face-to-face my extraordinary boys, Brian & Michael, who happen to have Down syndrome, so that they may put a human face on what is more-than-likely an out-dated, text-book impression of this diagnosis; AND  Our more self-serving goal... to help clear a peaceful life-path for Brian & Michael. The more people that meet them and come to understand and experience, first-hand, the breadth of possibilities for people with Down syndrome, the greater their acceptance and opportunities will be in life. (Pic: Ellen and Olivia on the last day of summer)
That said, on what we hoped would be an informative expedition for others, we were exposed, ourselves, to a few Angels Living Amongst Us:I was impatiently waiting at a traffic light, already late for our speaking engagement and anxiously awaiting my green signal. As the light turned, I was, I admit, a bit disheartened to see that I'd be further detained by a feeble, old man hobbling across the street on his cane -- against the light! I waited with new-found patience, concerned for his safe crossing, as cars swerved around him. He navigated a straight path, oblivious to the cars around him. He reminded me of a scene from Toy Story 2, where Buzz Lightyear and his friends were on their way to rescue Woody. They crossed the highway, blind beneath their construction cones, with trucks and cement tubes rolling perilously close but, luckily missing. I was suddenly brought back to reality when a passerby ran across 3 lanes of moving cars, yelling and waving his arms wildly, bringing traffic to a screeching halt... Much to the chagrin of those who were attempting to drive around the old man, impatient to be on their way. I nodded my appreciation and the gentleman-turned-traffic-cop-turned-Angel told me that the old man was blind. Though this stranger's faith in mankind might have been diminished that day, mine had been restored as he intervened on the old man's behalf. No doubt, an ANGEL AMONGST US!
And, of course, it is only right to recognize the significant and angelic role Ellen, our EI therapist/college professor, plays in creating a peaceful life-path for my sons. Ellen is the one who jump-started my college speaking career. By consistently inviting us back to Nassau Community College to speak on behalf of people with Down syndrome she continuously validates my need to proactively educate people about the human side of the diagnosis. And, in her own rite, she is certainly doing her share to make a difference in the world for people like Brian & Michael. Not only does she help me to spread the word, but she spreads the word herself, working as a family social worker in the Early Intervention program as well as teaching Psychology for Exceptional Children classes where she consistently ensures that her students remain open-minded about what's possible for people with Down syndrome today and in the future. She also brings her more-than-willing husband/college professor into the halo-light by giving him the opportunity to have us speak with his students as well. The more people we touch and teach, the better! And, they make a wonderful team of angels! My deepest appreciation and my children's heart-felt thanks go out to both of these angels...(http://commtechlab.msu.edu/Sites/aslweb/browser.htm)
Knowing there are caring and proactive people who take the time to do the right thing for others in this fast-paced and frequently selfish world is a breath of fresh and heavenly air for me. There are angels all around us, if we only pay attention. Thanks to the powers that be -- God, for me -- for helping me to recognize these people for what they are... Angels Amongst Us!