So, last evening, there were nine of us at the weekly Pub ‘n Pint gathering, at a local watering hole. And, oh, what a lively gathering it was!
Each week, unless there’s a holiday, or someone is sick, I plant myself in the pub with my pot of mint tea and wait to see who shows up. Many times, it’s just me, and I take that time to myself to get caught up on the things I wasn’t able to complete during the day. And that’s a good thing! But what’s even better is when another mom like me shows up.
I remember those years, back in the late ’80’s and ’90’s, when our family support group, PROSPECTS (Peterborough & Region Organisation for Special Parents of Exceptional Children Talking & Sharing), came together once a month. It was an opportunity for parents (mostly moms) to share what was currently going on in their family. Our focus was on finding the treasures in parenting a child who lives with disability. We recognized the realities, but we practiced gratitude and we searched intentionally for silver linings.
We shared … our stories, our realities, ourselves.
Sometimes, it was difficult sharing, because the challenges that come along with having a son or daughter living with a disability, or often multiple disabilities, can sometimes be overwhelming. Other times, we couldn’t wait to share, because we were celebrating an accomplishment that only these other parents could truly appreciate.
Sometimes, we would cry. Other times we would laugh so hard there was a run on the bathroom! There were hugs. Hands held. High fives. Tissues pulled from their hiding places. We were family.
During the PROSPECTS years, it was this amazing group that really became the soft place to me to fall. Other parents would shake their heads in understanding, and you just knew that they really did understand. Often, an unfinished sentence was met with a hug, because another parent truly understood the words unspoken, and that it was a hug that was needed.
And, it was a place for me to learn. Each day, I was learning from our daughter, and from other parents, who were also learning from their children. Thank goodness for the teachers I had.
One might think there is a library where all things “disability” would be found. Enter a search word, or look through a resource file, and we would likely find everything we need to know to be the best parent to this child, or to this child-now-adult, right? But no. It was this amazing group of parents who shared with me every wee piece of knowledge gained. I am just so grateful for the “degree” I earned by focusing on learning as much as I could from other parents who, like me, were just feeling their way through this thing called life.
I miss that group. I miss PROSPECTS. Mostly, I miss the many people I had come to know. Now, so many years later, I often wonder how life has unfolded for those with whom I’ve lost contact. Yup, I miss them.
Last evening, I felt the sense of community that I’ve missed for so long, since PROSPECTS folded in 2002. I felt a promise of more good things to come, as each of us shared our stories with one another, laughed, asked questions, discussed strategies and ideas, talked over one another. It brought back a visceral memory … one of feeling lifted up, and supported, and of being part of a community of like-minded people. People who are keen to make “amazing” happen in their sons’ and daughters’ lives, and in their own, too.
I can’t wait to see what comes next.
Linda Doran Viscardis was co-founder of PROSPECTS. She has dedicated her life to the betterment of people who live with disabilities and their families. Linda lives in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada. She invites anyone in the area to join the Facebook Group, Peterborough Families Are Strong, and to join her at the Holiday Inn on George Street, on Monday evenings, from 6:30 to 8:00. For information, contact Linda at Linda@Viscardis.ca.
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What a wonderful post Linda. I met you and so many others during those PROSPECTS days. 30 years later, I still recognise names of parents and their children, just from reading stories while I put your newsletters together. I learned so much from your community. What I learned helped me to understand how I could support you and your family and in doing that, I’ve gained some really great friends. Great things are going to come from these meetings—there already is!