Sunday, December 13, 2009

Welcome To Holland - My Sisters Story

My sister Elizabeth has raised a severely disabled child. At this child's recent birthday (he is now 34 years old) my sister gave me this story written by Emily Kingsley - Elizabeth told me that this story sums up the life and landscape of raising a disabled child - it is a story she draws strength from - I draw strength from the example of my sister, she is one of my heroes.

by Emily Pearl Kingsley

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel.

It's like this . . . When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum, the Michelangelo David, the gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting. After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes and says, "Welcome to Holland." "Holland?" you say. "What do you mean Holland? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy." But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place. So you go out and buy new guidebooks. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met. It's just a different place. It's slower paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around, and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills, Holland has tulips, Holland even has Rembrandts. But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy, and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say, "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned." The pain of that will never go away, because the loss of that dream is a very significant loss. But if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you will never be free to enjoy the very special, very lovely things about Holland.



Dan Gurney said...

I love this story and had seen it before. One thing I like about it: I've never been to Italy or Holland. I've had to make-do with California which enchants me sufficiently to keep me inside its borders mostly always. From time to time I want to go farther afield, but mostly I'm happy here in a paradise near at hand.

Alden Smith said...

Yes I can understand that Dan, there is a saying (from a TV advertisement) that states "Don't leave town till you've seen the country" - which is makes a statement about what you are talking about.

Alden Smith said...

Of course the main point of the story is that even amongst disappointments there are riches to be experienced. Its a story about paradox (and hope).

Katherine said...

Wow. What a lovely story. It's also about enjoying where you are. What is that saying? Um..."Life's not about getting what you want, so much as wanting what you get".

Alden Smith said...

Yes, or accepting the challenge of what you get - that old Zen Buddhist saying about what arrives on your doorstep is what you should be dealing with - easier said than done though especially in the case of this story.

Sailorman said...

Last November someone asked about John Wray. In a letter (1958/1959) he said he was still going strong. He was forced by WWII to sell Ngataki, but had build a bigger one (not a power boat, but a sailing boat) of which he enclosed a picture under full sail. Regretfully, I lost the letter and picture. The letter came from some tropical island. I hope someone can add more information as I am also very interested in his further whereabouts!