Just a day or so after Matt was born, I wrote in my journal about whether his “obvious” Down syndrome abnormalities were really all that worse than those of us for whom they are not as apparent – those of us who can hide our imperfections behind facade and show.
Six years later, in a poetry writing class at Belmont University, I penned this poem after watching him during his normal daily morning routine.
A Father’s Confession
I watched you sitting
on the sun-bright morning floor—
pillow in lap, legs straight, bending in half at the waist
bury your face in time to the music
bouncing down, then back up
a folding boy I could put in my suitcase!
The hair fairy came to see you last night—
a good thing—
to stop your dad’s addiction stare at your angel face.
Short stubby fingers and flat fat palms,
so little grace in your six-year-old hands.
Other dad’s sons that run your age and younger
already use their hands—
They throw balls with ease,
write their names,
can thread a needle.
Your hands have no ballet in them.
I wonder if God put them there because it was better
than having no hands
that would cause even more stares?
Just another tally
in the sixteen syndromes
of dealing with an extra chromosome.
Were your hands all this dad ever had to worry over—
my only concern—
my life would be good.
My life would be great like God is.
God is Great, God is Good you know,
but your hands are there—
ears too small and oriental eyes,
born of no Asian blood—
constant reminders of mistakes God made,
though some say He made none.
To remind me how futile and hard misshapen hands try,
you pick up a glass.
You’ve seen your sisters do the same,
easy for them.
The sticky syrup from the waffle
is like glue and gives miracle length
to your short fingers,
and just because you think you can,
you one-hand it,
if only long enough to slosh the white milk mess
on the worn out rug.
like it matters,
your hands are good.
Your hands can’t do, but they can love.
They can reach out—they make me sad
that I do so little
with my own two healthy hands,
that look close to perfect,
like so much of my life—
rife with facade and show
and looking better than I really am—
in so many ways
more imperfect and less able than you.
Your hands do their best,
they always will.
You don’t know how to hide them
behind false pretenses and half-hearted effort.
Hear my confession
my special child,
able to absolve the long faces,
able to teach me well,
though the limits God gave you
may not let you learn.
And grace me
with your unearned and undeserved