He starts off like any father would on his daughters wedding day:
It is the afternoon of your wedding. June 27, 2015. In two hours, you will take the walk of a lifetime, a stroll made more memorable by what you’ve achieved to get to this day. I don’t know what the odds are of a woman born with Down syndrome marrying the love of her life. I only know you’ve beaten them.”
While his daughter was preparing for the happiest day of her life so far he was staring up at her window, looking back on the wild and crazy adventure called life that led them to this moment. She had the hair, the lipstick, the dress, the “bling” as she called it, and the parents pinching themselves that this moment had actually come for so many reasons.
“I have everything and nothing to tell you. When you were born and for years afterward, I didn’t worry for what you’d achieve academically. Your mom and I would make that happen. We’d wield the law like a cudgel if we had to. We could make teachers teach you, and we knew you’d earn the respect of your peers.
What we couldn’t do was make other kids like you. Accept you, befriend you, stand with you in the vital social arena. We thought, What’s a kid’s life, if it isn’t filled with sleepovers and birthday parties and dates to the prom?
I worried about you then. I cried deep inside on the night when you were 12 and you came downstairs to declare, “I don’t have any friends.’’
Our cruel world, for some reason that will forever be a mystery, tends to take every opportunity to kick people who are different. While the parents knew bullies would come and go they prayed that their daughter would have more than just parents that loved them more than life.
“We all wish the same things for our children. Health, happiness and a keen ability to engage and enjoy the world are not only the province of typical kids. Their pursuit is every child’s birthright. I worried about your pursuit, Jillian.
I shouldn’t have. You’re a natural when it comes to socializing. They called you The Mayor in elementary school, for your ability to engage everyone. You danced on the junior varsity dance team in high school. You spent four years attending college classes and made lifelong impressions on everyone you met.
Do you remember all the stuff they said you’d never do, Jills? You wouldn’t ride a two-wheeler or play sports. You wouldn’t go to college. You certainly wouldn’t get married. Now… look at you.”
As a parent when you first hear your child has a disability you feel helpless and overwhelmed with fear. So much is out of your control and while your dreams and hopes for your child may shift your desire for their happiness never fades. Not only did his daughter grow up to make friends she improved the lives of those around her!
“You’re the nicest person I know. Someone who is able to live a life of empathy and sympathy, and without agendas or guile, is someone we all want to know. It worked out for you, because of the person you are.
I would tell you to give your fiancé, Ryan, your whole heart, but that would be stating the obvious. I would tell you to be kind to him and gentle with him. But you do that already, with everyone you know. I would wish for you a lifetime of friendship and mutual respect, but you two have been together a decade already, so the respect and friendship already are apparent.”
It’s a beautiful thing to see a father get emotional while watching his daughter’s dreams come true! You love your kids so much that the time to say goodbye becomes bittersweet no matter how amazing the person they’re going to be with is.
“Now, you and Ryan are taking a different walk together. It’s a new challenge, but it’s no more daunting for you than anyone else. Given who you are, it might be less so. Happiness comes easily to you. As does your ability to make happiness for others.
I see you now. The prep work has been done, the door swings open. My little girl, all in white, crossing the threshold of yet another conquered dream. I stand breathless and transfixed, utterly in the moment. “You look beautiful’’ is the best I can do.
Jillian thanks me. “I’ll always be your little girl’’ is what she says then.
“Yes, you will,’’ I manage. Time to go, I say. We have a walk to make.”