Had a great conversation with a wise woman today. This woman, 60-something , mother, grandmother, believer in the true strength of women, was talking to me about how things were “back in the day.” We were touching on a variety of topics when, suddenly she paused and looked to the ceiling, as if something were written there.
She started again, “Why is it that we don’t see much of this anymore? You know, all sorts of different people. I went to school with a girl who had a hunched back. And another who’s legs were not the same length. She had to wear a special shoe with a platform.
“There was a family that lived two doors down, and the father’d had his legs amputated. (I thought twins lived there, one tall and the other short. I was no older than 4. I couldn’t understand that sometimes he was wearing his prosthetic legs and sometimes he would walk around without them.) Well, that family had a daughter, and she was missing that bone between the knee and the ankle. She was older than me, so I never played with her.
“There was also a boy who would come to our house from time to time. He had Down Sydrome. He would come over with a man who worked with my father.
“And I can clearly remember, as a child, that none of these people were strange to me, or odd. They were just people, like you or I, who simply had something particular about them. But they were all around.
“Why don’t we see much of them anymore?”
“Well,” I started, “aside from some of the medical advances, many of these conditions are diagnosed during pregnancy. Children with abnormalities are usually aborted.” At this point, my eyes began to well up and I stopped speaking.
The wise woman sat back in her chair, as if soaking in the reality of what I had just said. Her mouth opened, but no words came out. She took a breath, exhaled, and stated, “That’s the problem with this generation.” She had my full attention. “You can go to the store and buy a fridge. For $100 more you can get a warranty. Why risk it? Get the warranty! But people view their children in the same way; like so many commodities. A man and a woman don’t get together and have a baby to create a family unit.” She lifted her arms, as though tightly holding a large ball to her chest. “They should love the family enough that, when they find out the baby is less than perfect, it’s OK. It’s still their baby. It’s still their family.”