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What did I do before Facebook?

4 Feb

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”

― C.S. Lewis

As I struggled to understand what the doctors were telling me, looking up every unfamiliar word, phrase, and condition, I was also furiously searching the Internet for other families who had kids with Oli’s condition.

There had to be more of us out there! Where were they? This was pre-facebook when it was not as easy to find people or support.

Finally I stumbled across a Yahoo online support group for families of anophthalmic/microphthalmic children. I submitted a request to join the group explaining that I had a one month old daughter with the condition.

I was silently begging this woman on the other side of the country….

Please, please accept me. Please tell me that you can help and that you understand.

I received an email the next day telling me to follow the link to the online forum. I waited until everyone in the house was sleeping before I went back online.

With the darkness of the house surrounding me I was looking into a new light, a new hope via my small computer screen.

I clicked on the link and walked into a whole new world. A world in which my child was no longer a small minority with a strange condition. A place where I was no longer just one mom alone on this foreign voyage. I had found the hope and the sense of community that I had been looking for.

I read through numerous conversation links and looked at handfuls of photographs of children who looked like my Oli. Beautiful children with positive and inspirational parents who told me not to be discouraged. They told me that they too lived my story. My life, her life, her future was not to be without hope. I could be myself with them. I could be angry, express my grief, my sense of loss. I could tell them about the strange looks that people gave my daughter. I could tell them how annoyed I was when people thought Oli was sleeping because she couldn’t really open her eyes. They understood because they too had the same experiences.

They knew me and they knew my struggles. I never had to pretend with these women. In the months to come I clung to my computer screen in the darkness and welcomed that light. I asked many questions and always received honest and compassionate answers. I found friendship in a most unlikely place. With women I would never meet. Most of them have never heard the sound of my voice, invited me over for coffee or out to lunch. Most of them were just names on the computer screen. But, those women knew me in those early days. They knew me better than some of my closest friends because I told them how I really felt.

I never told them that I was fine.

Growing up with Oli

4 Feb

IMG_1076“You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world.”
― Woodrow Wilson

I have often wondered what it is like to be a sibling of a child with a disability. I know it’s an adjustment for any child when a new baby is brought into the house. But, what about the child whose life is forever changed beyond just having another little person to live with. It is so much more than parents now being more preoccupied with feeding routines, frequent diaper changes and crying episodes. And it’s more than just knowing that you now have to share mommy and daddy’s attention with a new sister when, well lets face it, you probably weren’t all that thrilled about her joining you. Especially since you were an only child up until now.

Your life changes because now life is riding in the car for hours and then sitting in little rooms with crappy toys and being told to “be quiet” while you try to wait patiently. It’s waiting in these rooms several times a week when all you really want to do is go back home and play with your toys and watch the Cars movie…again. It’s sensing the atmosphere change in your house and feeling the weight of a sadness that you don’t understand but, seems to have followed your sister home from the hospital. The weight that seems to intensify after waiting in another one of those little rooms.

As you get older you start to notice that your sister, who you have waited to play with since she was born, never seems to get old enough to play like you. She doesn’t sit up very well when she does learn to sit up and then she can’t see when you try to show her your newest Lightening McQueen car or your new Hot Wheels race track. Mommy tells you to put your toys in her hands to show her things, but frankly this doesn’t make sense either because then she only puts your new toy in her mouth and ruins it with slobber. She never learns to move around the house which means mommy has to carry her every where. The words “Oli just needs more help” are lost on you when you just want to be picked up and carried around like before. You love your sister but, just don’t understand her. You ask questions and want to know why she is so different than you but, mommy’s explanations that God made her different don’t make sense. Why can’t the doctors just make her better. She is obviously sick and this is what doctors do. Why doesn’t she ever get any better? Why do they keep taking her to the doctor if they don’t fix her?

As you grow and change, learn your letters, learn to count and tie you shoes you try to show your sister so she can learn too. But, your attempts are to no avail and she doesn’t seem to get it. She won’t talk to you and now you are drifting farther and farther apart. She starts to do strange things like flap her arms, hum loudly and shake her head. You try to play like her to connect with her in some way but, what seems to amuse her is just boring to you.

You never give up though. You never give up trying to form that connection with her.

She is your sister despite your differences. Mommy and Daddy have always taught you to love her and help her and that is exactly what you do. Not so much out of a feeling of obligation but, because that is just who you are.

Kekoa you are such a special little boy. I love that you just love her and even though it’s been 5 years since everything in your life changed, it has never dampened your spirit or your love of your family and life. Please keep your kind heart and don’t pay any attention to people who may try to lead you down a different path.

You, my son, are going to change the world.

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