Bev Beckham and her granddaughter, Lucy
This week I learned all five things from my oldest granddaughter, Lucy, who is nine and in third grade. Lucy has Down syndrome. Things that come easy to most kids, she has to work hard to do. Walking. Talking. Climbing the jungle gym. Doing a puzzle.
All took time.
But she is trooper. She tries and tries and tries. And when she succeeds there is no sweeter victory.
Lucy had an all-day appointment at Massachusetts General Hospital last Tuesday. The hospital's Down Syndrome Program is innovative. It serves people with Down syndrome of all ages. And it is one-stop shopping: A person can see all necessary doctors—eye, ear, even a dentist—in just one day.
But it is a long day for anyone, never mind a child. Lucy got through it, and here’s what she taught me:
Lesson #1: Always be prepared. Lucy brought a backpack with books, her iPad, and pretzels. She was neither hungry nor antsy between appointments. Her parents and I, who brought nothing, were.
Lesson #2: Comfortable shoes matter. There was Lucy in sneakers and there we were traipsing from building to building and all over the parking lot, up and down steps in a.) sling backs with open toes b.) shoes with very high heels and c.) shoes that pinched.
Lesson #3: No complaining. The grownups complained about traffic. "We’re going to be late," we groaned. Lucy just read her books and smiled. We complained when we showed up at the wrong building. Lucy just followed us to the right one. We complained every time we had to wait 10 minutes. Lucy just flipped open her iPad and watched “Hairspray.”
Lesson #4 - Sometimes it's the kids who are the teachers. A young man in his first year of medical school, shadowed us for the day. His name was Adrian and he was from Montreal and a student at Harvard. He had never met anyone with Down syndrome before. Lucy wowed him. She said “Thank you” to every doctor and therapist who talked to her. She stuck out her tongue, followed the moving light, looked to the left and the right, repeated words and identified sounds, and did all that was asked of her. All day. With grace and grit.
Lesson #5 - Count your blessings. We did. All the way home. We were hungry. And tired. And there was traffic. And it was late. But we looked at Lucy, in the backseat, hungry and tired, too, but singing along with the radio, Lucy who passed all her tests, who got a “Get out of jail, free” card, who is blessedly and gratefully ours.
What did you learn this week? Tell me in the comments below.
Beverly Beckham is the author of “A Gift of Time,” a collection of personal essays, “Back Then,” a memoir of childhood, is a contributor to the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book series, is on the Board of Directors for the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress and writes a weekly column for The Boston Globe. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, Bruce, and has three children and seven grandchildren.
How well do you get along with your grandchild and other family members? Want to know if your personalities mesh?Find out here.