EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 23, 2013

Letter: A decade with Davis brings joy

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — To the editor:

There’s a quote attributed to Mark Twain that says “write what you know.” After living with my son Davis, who has Down syndrome, for the past 10 years, I want to write whom I know.

It’s important to talk about Davis, because there are recent advances that allow parents to confirm with 99 percent accuracy the diagnosis of Down syndrome at 10 weeks of pregnancy. Researchers have reported that more than 90 percent of parents receiving a pre-natal diagnosis of Down syndrome will terminate the pregnancy. I can’t judge parents who make that decision because when I received the news after Davis was born, my world seemed to fall apart, too.

A decade into the journey, however, I regret my reaction to the news. What I was told to expect as part of raising a child with Down syndrome — fights for limited resources, shortages of opportunities, encounters with unkind individuals, unfulfilled hopes — does not match my experience. Although I am not an expert on Down syndrome — it affects individuals and families in different ways — I am an expert on Davis, and this is what I’ve found.

Davis brings out the best in people, and our neighbors in the broader Merrimack Valley have been helpful, accommodating and kind. I am especially appreciative of those strangers who have showed concern when he’s strayed too far and have made sure he’s gotten back to where he belongs, and to the coaches who have let him sit in the dugout with his brothers at their games. I’m grateful to his teammates who cheer him on at swim meets and to the local church that has provided space for his playgroup for the past 10 years.

We have found an abundance of opportunities for children with special needs. Davis was the first of our three sons to bring home a baseball trophy. He was the first to play in a basketball tournament. He eagerly looks forward to his gymnastics practices. His photo has appeared on the Jumbotron in New York’s Times Square. Our lives have been enriched with many special moments provided to us by individuals who care.

There is great satisfaction in facing life’s challenges, and that is less about Davis and more about me. Life threw us a curve ball, and we had to swing at it. There are some days when I’m tired of playing ball, for sure — when I’ve had enough of the inconveniences and extra concerns that accompany Davis’ Down syndrome, to be honest. But are there days when I’m tired of other aspects of my life, too? Yes. Life is exhausting, as we all know. But I’m never tired of Davis, and the joy that having him as part of our family brings. I wish someone had told us to expect that 10 years ago when he was born.

Sharon Randall

North Andover