The Sweetest Love
by Carole Wright
It all started on that bus I rode to school everyday.
A mother was pushing her child ever so gently, prodding just a little bit to get her up the steps. The bus driver smiles like he has seen both of them many times. “Take a seat,” he mumbles.
I stare at her in my twelve year old naiveté. Her round face and slanted eyes, thick hands and sparse dark hair. Her mother’s attention amazed me. I thought, “I wish my mother could bring me to the bus and get on with me.” I miss her.
In my attempt to socialize, I engage the mother in conversation. I’m upset she doesn’t speak to me except to nod hello and not to bother her.
I talk to her daughter with slant eyes. She looks over at me and answers, “Hi.”
Somehow I knew I would see her again.
At home, I asked my Mom why the girl I saw looked so different.
“Mongoloid,” my mother says.
“What does that mean?” I ask.
“Bad genes,” my mother says. No one knows. It’s the 1950’s. There is no cure.
She says, “Everyone is scared to have a baby like that.”
I put it aside, but the fear lives in my heart. I think it must be terrible to have a child that needs to be institutionalized, to be called a “moron”, a “retard”, or worse, for other children to shun or be frightened of them.
I saw her many times after that on the bus home from school, she and her mother holding hands.
We never really spoke again, at least not any words. Her eyes were her voice.
One day in the winter of 1960 she did not get on that bus. I learned her mother had died. I never learned what happened to the girl with the slanted eyes.
It was a memory, forgotten, tucked away until circumstances and my medical career brought me to work in a place with a hundred slanted eyes and happy smiles. Being in this place jogged my memory and gave me a feeling of closure.
The sadness I had once experienced by not knowing what happened was replaced by a feeling of joy that has allowed me to be part of the sweetest love: the love that can only be given by someone with Down’s Syndrome.
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