Ruth and Ron. Ruth ran a small specialty store just around the corner from where Joe and I lived on Alexander Street in Toronto. Ron worked as an art director for a Christmas light company. That's what they did, that's not who they were. (A delineation that many do not either make or understand.) They each had a whole life that they owned and only part of their lives touched mine. But I feel so grateful to them. I have always prized the wisdom of elders and, lacking parental love and affection as a child, I sought out my own family in my own way. Ruth smoked too many cigarettes in a day and drank her Scotch neat. Ron couldn't tell a joke withoug disolving in laughter never finishing, never making it to the punchline. Ruth loved the racetrack and telling tales of London and youth. Ron loved, more to listen than speak. In their way they each parented me. Gave me freely of their love and affection. Gave freely attention and even more carefully considered advice. I am fortunate that two people, no children of their own, found me when I desperately needed to be found.
I think of them when I think of Paige. I met her in Maine, I think, she was a surprising woman. Living a rare life - with a rare disorder that was supposed to kill by 6 - she proved that doctor's at best, guess. When I met Paige she explained to me that she had Trisomy 18 (I think) and had been misdiagnosed as having Down Syndrome. She did have an intellectual delay, but it was so slight to be barely noticed. I met her as she was going to college taking Early Education as she wanted to work with children. Her goal came from her experiences being placed to work on wards with babies in an institution where she lived for a long stretch of her life. She loved the role that she had of care providing. She loved that she cared for her own. She wanted the babies that she touched to know of her care - of her hands touching them gently. She had seen what institutions did to adult and child alike. She wanted to give, for just a second, a loving parent's touch. She almost cried as she explained to me that she could feel the children loving her back.
And Stanley. What a gentle gentle man. I met him on my first visit to a group home that was oddly structured, it was two homes in one connected by a passage way. It was way way way more "home" than it was "group". I still remember that house and the people who worked in it. I remember then learning that it was possible to provide real love and real respect for people with disabilities. I was there to meet about those who had behaviour problems and what I got from staff was unstinting concern for those in their care. It astounds me still and whenever I drive by where the home stood I always, always point it out to Joe. Now he points it out to me before we even get near it, "Isn't that where the house was that ..." And then he laughs at my predictability.
But I met Stan at that house. We chatted one day and he talked to me about the institution that he had moved from and he told me about his 'boys'. It took a second but then I realized as tears sprung to my eyes that he was talking about some of the younger guys who had moved on to the ward and, in their first days, were frightened. Stan would seek them out. Make sure they were OK. Never was a human being more worthy of being called a gentleman. For he was that. I was touched to know that where there needed to be a loving Dad ... there was Stanley, where there needed to be a loving Mom ... there was Paige. And Ron and Ruth and thousands of others who love without counting the cost - because they want to - because they can.
It amazes me that there is enough grace in the universe to light the path of a needy boy into Ruth's shop, into Ron's presence. It amazes me more that that same grace placed Paige where she needed to be, and placed the responsibility to love into Stan's heart.
We are not alone.