The we being myself and the anesthesiologist, the one that casually asked me if Amos was retarded. It's been exactly a year since that question was tossed on my radar early one morning as we prepped my Amos for surgery. My initial reaction was one of shock and thus, silence. After pondering my seemingly meager ability to defend my son, I was thankful to have an opportunity to share my feelings with the same physician this week when I took two of my other children for minor surgery. I'm not sure what I hoped to accomplish but I could not forego an opportunity to share my heart.
It did not go as I expected. I don't know what I hoped would happen but I am left now picking up the pieces yet again, though for different reasons. To acknowledge words and their power and to stand tall in your motherhood and ask my child's physician hard questions was one of the hardest things I have ever done. He apologized, acknowledged he "misspoke," and went on to tell me his own background. He served in the military and saw tough things, his own family was not helpful with his now ten year old son and as he shared, it had been really tough for he and his wife, really tough. You see, when he told me that he had a "Down's kid" last year, I was silenced with a plethora of horrified emotions truthfully.
He told me he needed to be forgiven. Of course I had forgiven him, many moons ago, I said. I offered that I harbor no ill will, but want families to be protected from harshness as they are especially sensitive minutes before surgery and need no hurtful distractions. Instead, one could ask a family to tell him about their child's special needs that had been noted in the parent questionnaire. He agreed and asked for a hug and I took a picture. It was not until several minutes later that I heard my surgeon ask him about our conversation in the hall. I listened and when I heard the statement, "I shouldn't be judged," I stepped into the hall and interceded on my own, and Amos', behalf.
I will spare you all the details, but I said that I was not judging him. I don't think you're a bad person, I told him. He went on to say that I should be careful not to judge someone on one statement and that many words can offend, like the term obesity. At that point I had to accept that I was not going to get the redemption my heart desired and you know what? That's okay. I don't think our conversations will leave his heart or mind too soon. I think he is really hurting and that having a special needs child has been a tough pill to swallow. I am thankful that having Amos has never felt like that to me; his place in our family is such a gift, extremely tough yes, but having him does not travel with the feelings that I saw reflected in a doctor's eyes.
I won't judge him. I won't raise my fists in righteous anger over a question that tore my soul to pieces. I will continue to reach out in love, to whomever will listen, about words and the power that travels with them, to encourage kindness always, to never excuse my own behavior because, I too, belong to a special needs family. There is a time and a place for most everything, but never ever a time to ask a parent if their lovely child is retarded. Never ever, no matter if you are a physician or have a child with special needs. And that is the end of that.