Several weeks ago, Mr. Andi went to a party in honor of one of his employees who graduated from college (the kids and I stayed home). While there, one of the honoree’s other guests struck up a conversation with Mr. Andi and another couple. It was just a casual conversation among people who didn’t know each other before – small talk about jobs, the future, marriage, and kids.
Eventually, Mr. Andi shared that he has two kids with special needs, and The Other Guest seized on that information and began telling his own personal story of his uncle with Down syndrome. Friend/relative/neighbor stories are a familiar part of life with a “double dose of special,” but what Mr. Andi heard next shocked him.
The Other Guest launched into a tirade about how people with Down syndrome are so selfish – that everything is all about them. He stated unequivocally that if HIS wife (who was standing quietly nearby, tugging at his sleeve) was pregnant with a baby with Down syndrome, he would definitely abort because people with Down syndrome suck the life out of the rest of the family.
Mr. Andi calmly replied, “You don’t know what you would do if it were you. People with Down syndrome are capable of a lot more than you think and can live happy and fulfilling lives.” The Other Guest was sufficiently obtuse so as to not take the hint, however, and continued with his rant. At that point, Mr. Andi turned to The Other Guest’s wife and suggested that she remove him from the situation (i.e., walk him away before Mr. Andi punched him in the face).
The Other Guest did walk away, but after thinking (and fuming) for a few minutes, Mr. Andi decided that he didn’t want to be there anymore (despite an abundance of crawfish, which he loves and had not yet tasted). He said goodbye to the honoree without explanation and left. He didn’t tell me about the incident for two days because he didn’t want to upset me, and still hasn’t told the honoree what The Other Guest did or why he chose to leave the party.
I’ve returned to this incident in my mind many times, and I still don’t know what to make of it. Do most people feel this way, but do a better job of hiding it in our presence, or was this guy an anomaly – just another a-hole to be ignored? Did he determine on his own that his uncle’s life wasn’t worth living, or did he hear that sentiment from his father (i.e., his uncle’s brother)? Did The Other Guest’s grandmother – the mother of the man with Down syndrome – have to face hostility in her own home, merely for choosing to love and care for her child? And finally – what is the best way to handle a situation like this one in the future?
I haven’t yet found the answers.
Tell me what you think.