I believe in the parents who refuse to abandon their children because they are born with physical and mental disabilities. Gladys Conner exemplifies such parents. She kept her daughter home with her as long as she could, and then, when it became clear that her daughter’s physical needs had became too complex and that she needed to be part of a community with like-minded friends, Gladys brought her to Richmond State School. Gladys and her husband Ben, joined by many other parents, made the beautiful campus their second home. They watched their children ride horses, swim, and strolled around with them to visit friends in other dorms and cottages. Because her daughter’s heath was carefully attended to, Gladys could concentrate on taking her on trips and frequent visits back home. Of course Gladys became a mom to many of her daughter’s friends who had been abandoned by their parents, and she was always on the lookout for people to assume legal guardianships for them. The legislators in Austin knew Gladys and Ben very well for they spent many, many days there speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves. The world calls people with mental disabilities “retarded,” a pejorative term that hurts. They fail to see the purity and wisdom such gifted people possess – I say gifted because they do not care how much money someone has, or how beautiful or handsome they are, or how connected and powerful they are, they only see who that person is, without the artifice we allow our culture to layer on top of us. It is quite an experience to be confronted with who you really are and to spend time with people who can see more clearly than you. Gladys knows all that, and it’s one of the reasons she is so beloved by her daughter and all her friends at Richmond State School.
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