Do you ever imagine your daughter’s
wedding? How will it be, compared to
your own? Bigger or smaller? Will she wear her mother’s wedding dress or pick
out one of her own? How old will she
be? Of course the most important
questions are: Will she ever find her soul mate, or will she end up alone?
Equally important is whether the groom will be a mensch, a family man, someone
who will love her and accept her for who she is (and who she isn’t).
As the mother of a daughter on the
autistic spectrum, these are painful questions that I try my best to
avoid. After all, Sarah is only 22 and
still in college. She still has a lot of
growing up to do—more than most young women her age. I’d like to think that her
potential soul mate is not yet ready either.
All young people with disabilities grow up more slowly, with their
cognitive development continuing to age 30.
Meantime, there are plenty of other worries in
the here and now. Sarah still needs to
struggle through her last requirements at Pace University in order to graduate. Then—God help us—she has to find a job, an
internship, a place in the community where she can bring her energy, sweetness
and joy to the betterment of all. The
solution might well be working as an assistant teacher, in a special education
class with young children. Sarah has
volunteered for the past four summers and enjoyed working with kindergarten
kids. But will she pass the multiple
choice test necessary to qualify? No
matter how long Sarah studies, she always has trouble with multiple choice
tests. Even if she passes, will a school
hire her when they could choose a neurotypical candidate? No one is rushing to hire her extremely
capable, neurotypical twin brother, Max, who does brilliantly on multiple
choice tests. I must try to think
positively. Sarah will find a way,
Yet how can I NOT worry—worry like
a dagger through my heart—when I watch the beautiful daughter of friends get
married this past weekend? Although
Danielle, the bride, is 27, she’d already met her husband, Peter, in
college. Danielle and Peter lived
together through law school; they each have stable jobs and a bright
future. Both families were overjoyed at
the news their kids were tying the knot.
You can feel the genuine warmth and love radiating from the happy
couple. They shimmer and glow like a
positive energy field, drawing us all close so we can share their joy. Do I dare to expect so much for my Sarah?
The wedding takes place in an
enormous, cavernous place with 250 guests.
I knew it would be lavish and beautiful, but I never imagined that such
large rooms with so many people could feel warm and welcoming with décor that
was spectacular. Think Winter Wonderland
or Enchanted Forest with lots of white:
white flowers, white candelabra, white sequined table cloths, and lots
of hanging crystal reflecting all the lights.
The bride looked like a magnificent angel or a white cloud floating
through her forest of friends and family.
After a beautiful ceremony, we all
sat down to a fabulous dinner, danced to a 15 piece band, and listened to folk
songs while we ate. The bride and groom
had a long table full of 20-30 friends, with 5 bridesmaids and 5 ushers. The toasts by the best man and maid of honor
were funny and heartfelt. Tears pricked
the corners of my eyes. Sarah has a few
friends, but even in my most optimistic moments I could never imagine her
filling a table with that many peers who loved her or having more than one or
two bridesmaids. But none of that
matters. All I want is for her to find
the right someone who will always love her.
When Sarah was eight, she threw a
coin into a fountain and made a wish.
“What did you wish for?” Henry
“To be married someday.”
“Why do you want to be married?” We
asked with trepidation. “Why” questions
were extremely difficult for Sarah at that age and often provoked a tantrum
when she couldn’t answer. But we thought this question was an easy one. I’d have bet money that my daughter would
have said she wanted to get married because she wanted someone to love her, but
I would have been wrong.
“I want to have someone to love.”
Sarah answered without hesitation.
It was hard not to cry. Her voice held such sweetness and hope.
All these years later, her answer
haunts me. Maybe we shouldn’t have
asked. If you’re superstitious, you
believe that wishes are supposed to be kept secret or they won’t come true. Of course, I’m not going to let superstition
(or anything else) stand in Sarah’s way.
I won’t just move mountains—I’ll level the entire range if necessary.
After my friend’s Saturday wedding,
I attended a lecture on Monday by Ann Ford about raising Allegra, her severely
learning disabled daughter. Allegra’s
older brother, now 47, also spoke about the impact of growing up with an LD
sister. Like Ann Ford, I have raised a
daughter with severe (though different) disabilities and a basically typical son,
with mild ADHD. Unlike Ann Ford, I’m not
wealthy or related to anyone famous, so there’s no family fortune available to
support Sarah or her brother Max. What
will happen to our daughter after we’re gone if there’s no one to look out for
her? Although Max and Sarah love each
other, they are not close—mostly because Sarah is so jealous and resentful of
her brother’s verbal and social strengths.
So I can’t count on Max (who at the moment isn’t able to support himself). Somehow somewhere Sarah will have to find
someone to love who will also love her.
Suddenly I learn that Allegra got
married about a year ago, at age 41. Up
on the screen are pictures of Allegra and her husband, Josh, at their
wedding. Again, I have tears in my
eyes. Better late than never. Even
if Henry and I have to wait till Sarah is that age, it’s likely that at least
one of us will still be here. I can’t
wait for the talk to end, so I can ask Ann Ford how her daughter met her
I’m the first one to ask my
question. Everyone in the
audience—parents of other LD kids—laugh sympathetically.
“Believe it or not,” Anne Ford
admits, “they met through an on-line dating service called “Great
I sit down and quickly scribble
down the name. What would Charles
Dickens think of a dating service named after his book? I wonder if the dating service is
specifically for adults with disabilities, but there are lots of other people
waiting to ask questions. I’ll check out
Great Expectations on my own.
Whether Sarah pursues on-line
dating in the future or meets her prince some other way, I hope she can find
true love, and I can live long enough to celebrate with her.
Labels: ADHD, Ann Ford, autism, Charles Dickens, colllege, Great Expectations, learning disabilities, special education, weddings