There were lots of dramatic and soul-searching moments as I wrote “Some People Even Take Them Home” A Disabled Dad, A Down Syndrome Son and Our Journey To Acceptance. Some memories touched awfully close to the bone. More than a few provoked tears and upsetting disclosures about emotions and feelings.
Without question though, the most disturbing thing occurred when a New York book agent was editing the first draft. One day as we discussed the chapter about my early childhood he confided in a soft, almost secretive voice, “Frankly Tim, I found your parents quite cruel.” I exploded in anger and defensiveness. After giving him hell I immediately made some mild rewrites on the chapter. As time passed, I became more sad than angry that the agent was so clueless about raising a special needs child like me.
My parents were not cruel. They were just middle-class folks trying to do the right thing. They were advised by a very smart doctor to set standards, expectations and to treat me like you would treat every other child. That meant allowing me to walk eight blocks to school in metal braces and watching through gritted teeth as I fell off my bike100 times in one day. That took a moral and mental courage that inspires awe in me to this day.
On this Mother’s Day I can’t help but be profoundly grateful for my 90-year-old mother, Anita McGuire, who along with my late father, pushed back the tears so I could have as normal a childhood as possible. That push for normalcy gave me the fortitude and pluck I needed to succeed. The natural inclination of any parent is to pamper, protect and coddle their child. That’s the easy path. The hard road is to watch your child struggle with all the bumps, suffering and tears required to thrive and find independence. And that independence thing is really hard.
About 15 years ago my mother told a magazine interviewer, “We raised Tim to be independent but not this independent!” That’s the painful part. Every parent and every mother wants their children to forge their own path, but they would really like it to be the path they would choose. It seldom works out that way and yet, mothers still love, mothers are still proud and Mothers still stand by their children.
My mother exudes good health, smarts and a sharp mind at 90. Yet, I am well aware that my chances to tell her how grateful I am for all her strength, courage and love, are dwindling. So Mom, I am sorry for all the bad choices I made on my journey. They weren’t your fault (probably Dad’s). But if I have the gifts of determination, kindness, loyalty and grit, they are because of you. And, I am grateful I get another chance to tell you that in person. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.
Tim J McGuire is the author of “Some People Even Take Them Home” A Disabled Dad, A Down Syndrome Son and Our Journey To Acceptance