Mother was old, but strong old. Daughter was well past middle age and gracefully so. They gave me such hope. Real, down deep, personal hope. You see, I am never comfortable when being stared at. And yet, I've been stared at all my life. First just for being ginormously fat, second for being fat in a wheelchair. It bugs me. It irks me. It pisses me off. And if I told the absolute truth, it hurts me, a little bit, every time. I grit my teeth, I speak up - stop staring it's rude, and of course, internally, I hurt myself a little.
We are on vacation and staying at a lovely hotel in Gravenhurst. Mike and his family have a suite as do Joe and I. We start our morning by meeting in the lobby area where there is a hot, free, breakfast. I hadn't noticed mother and daughter at first as I pulled in to the table. I never look at people when arriving in a room. I wait after I've splashed into the social pool until the ripples of stares and comments die down. So when I looked up, I noticed that I wasn't the only person being stared at ... so I followed the gaze and found a woman dignified and gray, sitting at a table with her elderly mother. She had Down Syndrome, her mother had 'I Am Quite Comfortable With My Child's Difference Thank You Very Much Syndrome' otherwise known as IAQCWMCDTYVM Syndrome.
They had breakfast and chatted quietly with each other. I wondered, as I always do in these moments, if mother had any inkling of the quiet loving bond that would have them sharing time and space years later, when the child was born. But what struck me was the incredible quiet dignity that they carried themselves with. They knew of the stares and managed, like I have never done, to rise completely above both the intent and the inspiration for the stares. Their dignity was like a force field that had starers glance away embarrassed at their own actions. Like suddenly finding you have snot on your shirt when greeting the Queen.
I knew that years of hurt feelings brought them to this place of grace. I knew that stares once penetrated and hurt both, for different reasons. But here they were noticed and then in studied determination, not noticed. I want what they had. Grace and dignity, poise and composure - a force field of personal strength and integrity. I want that. Please can I have it? I'd like it wrapped as a gift but I think it can't be bought, it has to be earned through endurance.
Though I did not, myself stare, we did notice each other, mother and daughter and I. We nodded. Me from my island of difference. They from theirs. On their way out they stopped and said to Mike and Marissa: you have a lovely family. Their words of praise brought grins to all at the table. Mike said to mother, 'You do too.' She smiled and nodded, tears forming in her eyes. She took the compliment, tucked it in her purse and took it back to her room.
I'm guessing they're saving it until, in a weak moment should they still have them, they need it.