When I was born thirty-seven years ago, the hospital told my mother, “You don’t have to take him home if you don’t want him.”
She ignored the suggestion, just as she dismissed the sympathy cards from “well wishers” that she received upon the news of my birth.
For the record, I’m glad she kept me.
Within one hour of my birth, she knew that she was a mother of a special needs child—I was identified with Downs Syndrome. From the beginning nothing was normal for her. I would never be just her baby Joshua. I would only be spoken about with the phrase added, “He’s a Down’s baby.”
“Don’t expect too much,” that’s what they told her. But a wonderful thing happened. She was my mom and I was her long-awaited baby boy. I was unconditionally loved, accepted, and cherished. A new journey for both of us was just beginning.
Life is quite normal for me: A nice home, family and friends, a job I love, and a very active and busy schedule. There are several things that make my life great! I have the greatest mother & stepdad—I call him “dad”—in the entire universe, I love to work, and holidays are the best, especially Christmas! There is nothing like it. Santa, Mom and Dad, family, wrapped presents, food, music, and of course the Christmas story and baby Jesus.
Mom and Dad think I am pretty special. But I think they are very special, too. Mom is so patient with me, even when I am stubborn. I always want to sit in the front pew at church—every Sunday! She patiently reminds me that sometimes I fall asleep in church and snore . . . loudly, so we sit in the back.
She has allowed me to try almost everything and anything including horseback riding, basketball (even after two open heart surgeries), bowling, swimming, golf, and lots more. My dad and I play golf together and do we ever have stories to tell. Like the time I was on the green and loudly said, “Hey Dad, I named my putter!” And when he asked me what I named it, I said, “Harry Putter!” I am pretty sure he has a great time with me because he laughs and smiles a lot.
A lot of people complain about their jobs—not me! I love going to work! When Hillcroft was closed last winter because of the ice and snow, I thought I might be the only one who would not be there to work. “They need me,” I told mom. “Am I letting the other workers down? Besides, what will I do all day? Mom, I need the money. If I don’t work, I won’t get money. I’m saving my money for my vacation!”
Being Joshua is quite an adventure. I have done so many things I have been told I would never be able to do. For all of the uncertainty that mom and I faced at the beginning, life has turned out okay for me and my mom. I tell her over and over that I love her and that I am glad that she is my mom.
“Joshua,” she says, “I do not know what I would have ever done without you. You brighten each of my days. You are what gives me hope for tomorrow, and you have filled my life with so much love.”
She tells me that I’m her special gift.
Ted Baker is the Executive Director of the Muncie Innovation Connector and Chairperson of the Hillcroft Services Board of Directors. This is one of the neatest projects he has ever worked on.