Raising a Disabled Child

As a teenager in the late 60's I couldn't have imagined my life as anything other than being a housewife and mother, a June Cleaver look-a-like. Maybe a "little" job that was cute and didn't require much work or brain power on my part. But that was not to be. Ultimately, I became the parent of a mentally challenged child.

My son was born with a heart defect that required surgery. A tissue graft in his heart failed and blocked blood to his lungs. He went through renal failure as a result. As a believer in a higher purpose, when my son was so near death after the second heart surgery, I swore an oath to take care of him despite my limited understanding that the "normal" child was gone and not sure what would be left.

During my son's crisis a black minister from Louisiana with a daughter facing a similar crisis, whispered these words of comfort "God gives no more than you can handle." When times have been difficult, that phrase has been my rock. I can handle whatever the trial, because God gives no more than I can handle.

My son's father couldn't "deal" with the residual health and learning disability issues and left a few years later. I was left with a special needs child and the courts back in the late 70's did nothing to protect his future needs.

The situation sounds grim, but we managed. I had to for my son and his sister's sake. As the saying goes, "failing was not an option". When I began my journey as a single parent I had a $7.00 an hour job in a flower shop and an order for child support that seldom came. We managed because I had no choice. Meanwhile, I became a better person for the struggle. A hobby a few years later became a livelihood and now makes an income six times that beginning salary.

My son and I still live together after all these years. I own my own house, I have a new car, and I have a career as a writer. My son and I travel together, go to movies and both our lives are filled with outside activities for each of us. I am a firm believer, you make your life what it is. I decided a long time ago to have a happy life despite the challenges thrown my way. Over the years I have faced my son's health crisis', job lay-offs and my daughter's diagnosis of being bi-polar. Despite it all I chose to be happy. I am a successful person on so many levels.

My crowning achievement is my son. He functions academically as a 8 or 9 year old. But as an adult, socially he is charming, personable and friendly. He is everything a parent could want in a son. He takes his job seriously. He is a hard working young man who still opens doors and isn't afraid to scrub the toilet while I do laundry.

Not everyone would consider my situation a blessing but I do. The struggles have been rewarded time and time again. I stood at my son's bedside and made a promise. That promise of "I'll endure whatever hardship" has turned out to be "heaped with blessings". My life is not what I expected, but it is richer than I could have ever imaged. Having a disabled child is not the end of the world, it's the beginning of a more rewarding life filled with unconditional love and great joy.

Charlotte Hoaks is a successful technical writer in the Houston area. She and her son are members of the Association of Retarded Citizens (ARC) a support organization for the disabled. Charlotte uses her skills as a writer to share information and inspire others to be more pro-active with assistance for the disabled. The disabled are the "silent" minority. They only have a voice when others advocate for them.

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