Meeting Reva at the Cracker Barrel

We had a full, full Thanksgiving break, with pleasantly overstimulating time with both sets of relatives.  There are new pictures up on Flickr if you want to see the Piepmeier and Biffle families in their Thanksgiving glory, but what I want to write about here is an experience on our way home today.  Biffle, Maybelle, and I stopped--as we often do--at a Cracker Barrel for lunch.  While we were eating, we noticed that a woman at a nearby table was what we (inoffensively, I hope) refer to as an MOT:  Member of the Tribe--of our tribe, because she has Down syndrome.  "She's reading the menu!" I shared with Biffle quietly.  "She just gave her order to the server, and the server totally understood her.  No need for translation."  And later, "She's having a good time!  She and the woman she's with are laughing."

When we got up to leave, we engaged in a version of the behavior that we've discovered lots of parents of little kids with Down syndrome do:  we walked Maybelle by very slowly, and let her stop and look around so that the woman and her lunch companion could see her.  I pretty obviously moved my body out of the way so that Maybelle was totally visible.  I wanted to connect with them, but I didn't want to lunge at their table out of the blue if, perhaps, they were hoping to have a quiet lunch without having to do Down syndrome outreach.

Well, it worked:  the woman, whose name is Reva*, turned around and saw Maybelle, and her mom saw her, too, and they both smiled and waved.  We're in!  We walked over to visit with them and had a brief conversation.  We learned that we're all doing just fine.  We shared that Maybelle is 2, and learned that Reva is 39.  Her mom encouraged us to have high expectations, and we assured her that we do (as all our blog readers are well aware).  Reva agreed with me that Maybelle is a wiggle bug, and then we headed on our way.

In the car, Biffle and I were processing (so cool to meet them!  Reva seems great!), and wondering, in particular, if there was anything else we should have said.  "She's 39, right?" Biffle asked, and I said yes.  He said, "We should have told her mom thank you."  Reva was born a year before me.  In 1971, her mom would have been told to institutionalize her.  And clearly, she didn't.  Not only did she not institutionalize her, but she had high expectations for her, and it's because of moms like that--who did what they did without the sorts of support we have today--that Maybelle has the chance to live the life she's living.

Biffle was totally right.  We should have told them both thank you.

*I thought her name was Rayna, but Biffle reminded me it's Reva.


cindy said...

in 1971, if Roe v Wade had passed, wouldn't they have also told her to abort Rayna? Perhaps you should have told her mother thank you for not doing that. If she had aborted Rayna, her mother would not have been able to have high expectations of her, and you would have never been able to have that cool interaction with her, which I am sure encouraged her and well as you.

Biffle said...

No. The moral to the story is that, regardless of available options and conventional wisdom, we should all have the opportunity to make the most courageous choice.

Choice is the essence of humanity, not compulsory mandates.

Quiche said...

Wonderful that there are Raynas out there, positive role models to provide connectedness not only with the "tribe" but with the whole of the human tribe in all it's diversity.

Walt, I don't think I have heard it better stated. The oddball humorous side of me...DEVO's Freedom of Choice song playing in my head- ha!

Cindy said...

Okay, I really really don't want to start an argument here because I really do enjoy this blog but isn't life the essence of humanity? Without it there would be no choice, correct?

Biffle said...

yes, but using that reason, oxygen is the essence of humanity because without it...and so on. It isn't what has to exist before we live, it's the notion of what is it in our lives that makes us human.

For instance (and using Christianity in this case): If life were the essence of humanity, then it would have been enough for Jesus to have merely lived. Instead, the story of Christ's life is so beautiful because he had choice. He struggled, he prayed "to let this cup pass from me." In the end, he chose to do what he thought was right. (Others didn't: Peter and Judas, for instance.)

What good would that story be if he had done it all entirely against his will?

It wouldn't be worth a thing. Yep, "Jesus chose" is much more powerful than "Jesus lived."

If you take away air, then, yes, we cease to live (and so do trees and amoebas and so on.) But if you take away choice? We cease to be human.

Anonymous said...

I love reading about the exceptional care and high expectations that you give to Maybelle. I absolutely agree that choice is essential to meaningful life. However, choice is not inherently good. As you stated, choices can be beautiful or they can be horrific. Being an advocate for choice, one should realize the only one who doesn't have choice in this situation is a new life who is completely dependent upon the care of his mother. And it is a life or it couldn't be ended. You cannot take something away that doesn't exist. Mothers always have choice with an unwanted pregnancy. They can choose to keep the child which might turn into a wonderful blessing. However, I realize that in many cases, this is not a good option for either the mother or the child. Another choice the mother has is to willingly end the life of her child. Lastly, adoption is a choice. My own mother was faced with this decision. She went through what I'm sure was an emotionally difficult pregnancy and choose adoption. Although, I've never met her, I'm forever grateful for her beautiful choice.

Alison said...

Cindy, I just wanted to add to this discussion by saying that I'm really glad you read this blog and were willing to express your opinion. There are few spaces where people who disagree with each other on a few key issues (like abortion) have the opportunity to talk, and I appreciate having you as a reader to this blog. I'm remembering that your comment on my Sarah Palin post was very encouraging to me.