There were many things that confused and worried me during my first months home, but I never discussed them with anyone. Mom had given birth to my sister Mary, who was born with Down's syndrome. This added a new level of anxiety and worry to our family, so I didn't want to add any extra stress to anyone. Again, I was dealing with all these concerns with the emotional development of a seven year old, so much of my processing was askew due to my lack of maturity. I never realized how off center my conclusions were. Now when a child goes through a life-changing surgery, I would hope that counseling would be made available to both the patient and family. But this was over fifty years ago, and things were quite different in terms of mental and emotional health support.
During this perplexing time I turned to three relationships that I could access without the need of an adult. My first connection was with food. One day my mom brought me a huge, spiral-decorated lollipop in the hospital. I can vividly remember the sweetness of it and the amount of sheer pleasure it gave me during an otherwise unpleasant day. My bond with food was set in stone from that day forward, and it would be years before I understood all the dimensions of this relationship. Humor was my second connection . I quickly realized how easily I could get peers and adults to like me if I could just make them laugh. I believed that if people liked me, then they wouldn't be so quick to harshly judge my appearance. You see, it didn't take me long after arriving home before I began to think of myself as a kind of freak. At school we never talked about celebrating differences, and that was fine with me because my goal was simple...stay under the radar. Humor came more naturally to me than constantly trying to be aware of what angle I was facing people. As you might expect, that was too exhausting to maintain. My relationship with God was my third connection, and it was as off kilter as the other two. I spent all my time with God begging, pleading, bartering and promising... whatever it would take to make me feel safe and secure in this big scary world that surrounded me.
With all this insecurity, sadness and fear swirling around inside of me, can you imagine how I felt when my mom would regularly remind me to give thanks for being so lucky?! Oh my, I needed to get a different dictionary, because I did not understand her definition of lucky!