From her early thirties until her death in 1976, at age 60, my mom had been largely incapacitated with Multiple Sclerosis.>
During her later years, Edythe May Yeo had a symbiotic relationship with a slow mid-twenties caregiver whose family lived in our middle-class Scarborough, Ontario neighbourhood. Mary McSweeney did physical things for them both and my mom did mental things for them both. It was a very practical arrangement, much like the parable of the blind man and the cripple.
Edythe and Mary loved one another, unconditionally.
God blessed them to enjoy much more than each others welcome companionship. To me, they shared a wonderful, mutually adoptive, parent-and-child relationship, for which I shall be eternally grateful.
Other than Mary, Id had no known previous exposure to, and little awareness of, what is, in todays Canada, called intellectual disability.
Since then, I have learned that they are everywhere.
Decades after my devout mom shed her mortal coils, with a flick of the fickle finger of fate, my destiny was to be irrevocably changed by a young man, barely into his twenties, living with Down syndrome.
Robert Pio Hajjar has affected my life in very many ways, almost all good.
>It was his classical DS determination which detained his beloved aunt, who had been visiting from out of town for several months, to remain with him long enough that her homeward path first crossed mine, while I was filling up at a local Beaver gas station.
Three years later, Robert was to be the best man at our wedding.
That Robert was the only head table member to speak without notes, and quite eloquently, perhaps says more about our otherwise mainstream wedding party than it does about Robert Pio Hajjar.
Little did anyone there, on that cold end of November day, suspect that we were being given a preview of Roberts future purpose in this life.
It was to be many years later before Robert began his currently active, distinguished career as an international motivational speaker, thereby creating a new paradigm in this world.
Never before, not ever, has there been a person with Down syndrome able to present as a transformative self-advocate and, Robert Pio Hajjar is transforming audiences, large and small and, on the world stage.
Robert has long been a versatile athlete and, after supporting him for several years with his special teams in baseball, hockey, swimming, etc., I learned, firsthand, that his many peer friends have, generally, very positive mental attitudes and they were lots of fun for me to be around.>
Even during large, organized special events, unlike the, often unwelcome, reputation earned by too many mainstream sports teams, Robert and his teammates were remarkably well behaved, well mannered, sportsmanlike.
Refreshingly, they were teaching me more about important aspects of the human condition such as love, humility, compassion, patience, spirituality, courage, appreciation and acceptance. From them, I learned to more fully appreciate my own mainstream mentality and physicality which, like most of MY peers, I had been always taking for granted. No more.
Heck, I began to realize that I, or any one of us, may, involuntarily, become one of them, at any time. This may happen suddenly through a head injury, slowly through disease or, increasingly common, through the aging process.
Yes, there have been moments, fortunately very few and far between, where I have been directly involved, or I have been told about by caregivers, when challenges particular to a specific intellectual disability have arisen. But, isnt this also the case with any demographic, mainstream or otherwise?
Arent such all-too-human foibles further evidence that THEY are just like US?
Ideal Way has been a real eye opener for me . spiritually refreshing, delightful, fulfilling, loving and caring, endearing on many levels. I recommend, to my fellow mainstream citizens of this great country, some form of constructive involvement with these exceptional citizens among us.
Whomever chooses to support the work of Ideal Way, in any way, is a blessing to persons that can never repay you. In this way, you will also be blessing yourself.
Post written by guest blogger Donald Yeo.