Friends

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Imagine having a friend who has never heard your voice. A person who you admire and look up to AND feel so comfortable with that you can laugh until you pee. A person who knows you so well that they can order lunch for you, and always choose the right movie to match your mood.

Imagine having a friend who doesn’t shout when you change their radio station without asking. A friend whose hand you can grab when you need some support and whose face you can lick in public.

Jack has a friend like that. His name is Peter. Peter and Jack have known each other since PG Chambers School days and they continue to have dates every couple of weeks to go to the movies or grab a cupcake at The Able Baker. And, when they’re not doing anything big, they sit, listen to music and enjoy each others company. All without Jack ever saying a word.

Peter is getting married today to his beautiful fiancé, Orla. Jack has been there from the beginning of their relationship and has watched as it has blossomed. I suspect Jack has heard more of their love story than Peter has shared with most people – Jack’s a good listener and he’s fantastic at keeping secrets.

Peter – Today is going to be a beautiful day. Thank you for including us and thank you for being such an incredible friend to our boy!!

Orla – Welcome to the family. Today you don’t just marry Peter, you gain an extra brother-in-law!!

Cheers, Jess

we are the 10-20%

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June 3, 1995

St. Bartholomew NYC, NY

As we were preparing to leave the hospital years ago, our social worker pulled us aside to warn us about all the obstacles parents face bringing home a child with health concerns. “And your issues are a bit broader. Be careful. The divorce rate for couples who have children with special needs gets as high as 80-90%.”

I didn’t hit her, but I wanted to. I’m not sure why she thought it would be helpful to share those statistics with us – what she thought we would do with the knowledge. All it really did (other than make me want to hit her), was make those numbers ring in my ears. At that point, we were convinced Jack’s “specialness” was temporary, but the numbers still rung. As we returned to our lives, and it became clear that maybe we were indeed a “special needs” family, I couldn’t help but revisit the grim statistics. I wondered what made special needs families so vulnerable. Why families wouldn’t gain strength through their challenges and why anyone would EVER add to already complicated lives?

Dan and I got married agreeing that marriage is forever. Few things were on our unspoken list of deal breakers. My parents have stayed married, merging two cultures and two distinct family dynamics, along with a mound of issues while raising three children. Dan’s parents also stayed together through a maze of life and parenthood, until his mother passed away. Every couple has their issues, but both sets of parents were great role-models. Teaching us that if you can get through the tough days, partnership has wonderful benefits. As a couple, Dan and I have had a few friends and family members end their marriages, and none have them have done it easily. It’s a struggle to witness and nothing either Dan nor I would want to duplicate.

So why is the divorce rate for couples who have children with special needs as high as 80-90%? My only conclusion is that, like many tests in life, having a child with special needs highlights any cracks you may have in your marriage’s foundation. Dan and I seem to have an extra sturdy foundation. I think the strength comes from liking each other. It’s that simple.

When Dan sends me his nightly text telling me that he is on the train heading home, I smile. I’m excited to see him. When I tell Dan about my day, he listens. Like all married couples, we have our moments (occasionally months) of frustration/anger/your #$$%ing kidding me, but generally we enjoy each other’s company. And, we both adore our children. We also share the same values and goals and are one of the few people in each other’s lives who really understand what it’s like to live in our home. Our challenges have made us stronger.

Wednesday we celebrated our 20th Anniversary – 20 YEARS!! I feel very confident that we will continue being part of the 10-20% who choose marriage. I don’t think I could manage this life without him. Thank you Dan for being my husband. I love you more every day.

Love, Jess

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June 3, 2015

St. Bartholomew NYC, NY

(the doors were locked – we had to laugh)