A gift from Luke

All moms want the same things. Sometimes our gifts come in unexpected ways

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By Susan Konig

Around the time I was having my third child, my cousin Kim was having her second. But there were complications with her son, Luke. He was born with Down syndrome and other developmental problems, and almost died at birth of pulmonary issues. Soon after, Kim sent me an essay by Emily P. Kingsley about having a baby with disabilities called “Welcome to Holland.”

It compared expecting a baby to planning a trip to Italy. You prepare and dream and set your itinerary, but when the plane lands, you find out your flight was diverted to Holland. You are forced to read new guidebooks, learn a whole new language, and meet people you never would have met. Once you start to look around, though, you discover tulips and windmills and Rembrandts.

Now, nearly nine years later, Kim, her husband, Keith, and Luke’s three sisters could give us the grand tour of Holland.

Th e-mails and photos come regularly. When Luke made progress in his efforts to communicate, Kim wrote, “He says a very clear ‘Hello’ and that makes his sisters very happy to hear!” We received photos of Luke running around on Halloween, dressed as a pirate and beaming from ear to ear. Then, not long ago, Luke competed in the Special Olympics.

“We are soooooo proud of him!” Kim’s message read. “He has been training all year and loves to swim. He can swim two laps unassisted (with a life jacket), so please be thinking of him tomorrow.”

Soon aft er, a photo arrived showing a soggy and smiling Luke with his dad, who proudly held up his son’s red ribbon.

Kim once sent me one of these Internet quizzes that you fill out and see what your friends and family don’t know about you. In between responses about favorite soft drinks and detergent brands, I found her answers revealing.

What time did you get up this morning? 5:17

What characteristics do you despise? Ignorance, racism

Are you a morning person or night owl? Both

What did you want to be when you were little? A mom

Love someone so much it made you cry? Who hasn’t??

Favorite flower? Tulip

What do you do most often when you are bored? I am never bored, ever

What is your favorite photograph? Luke’s baby picture of him sitting on the windowsill

What person have you learned the most about life from? Luke

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Too tired for that one

Time you finished this email? 10:56 p.m.

Just the other day, Kim wrote to me about another milestone: “Luke has a new word. He very clearly, unmistakably, put his hand on my arm, looked at me, and said ‘Mom.’ Th at was the first time, ever. He has been saying it over and over … sometimes he yells it from the other room. His teacher is here now and she said he has never said that at school. It’s just for me :-) I’m still pinching myself, and I just have such a good feeling inside. What a gift .”

All moms wait for the same things. Some take months, some years. I’ve never been to Holland, but Kim’s regular e-mails and photos remind me that the journey is more important than the destination. CD

Susan Konig

Susan Konig is the author of I Wear the Maternity Pants in This Family (2007) and Why Animals Sleep So Close to the Road and Other Lies I Tell My Children (2006). Visit Konig's Web site at susankonig.com, and on Facebook at facebook.com/susankonig