We are supposed to be in Italy.

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Today is my 10 year wedding anniversary.

A pretty big milestone these days.

It is hard to believe that Craig and I have known each other for 18 years and been married 10 of those.

I think about where our lives are now and I’m brought back to this little bit of writing.

WELCOME TO HOLLAND

by
Emily Perl Kingsley.

c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this……

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…. and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills….and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.

For those of you that don’t have a medically fragile child or a child with special needs, you may not be familiar with this.  But, for those of us that do, this piece has been circulated around and passed on to newly diagnosed parents since the beginning it was first published.

It is supposed to bring you comfort in knowing that your child may not be what you expected…what you planned for…but if you focus and mourn for the child you thought you had you’d never see the beauty of the child in front of you.

But, today…on my 10 year anniversary…I read this poem and read it in a different way.

Before Isabelle was born, Craig and I took a “babymoon” to Europe.  We watched Arsenal play at the Emirates in London and walked the streets of Paris.  We had Isabelle and she changed our world.  It was a little harder to travel with a child but traveling is the thing Craig and I love to do the most.

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We made it to Germany and Amsterdam a year later (courtesy of my parents!) and we decided that we would do everything we could to see the world and experience all that God created.

So, for the next 5 years…we have been saving for our dream trip to Italy. Every scrap – money we received from parents for Christmas, birthdays, bonuses Craig earned at work, money we received from selling stuff at garage sales – was put away in our “10 year anniversary fund.” We saved airline miles from credit card purchases that we racked up over the years.

Craig and I would talk about this trip often.  Which sites we would see.  Trying our best to plan it around Europe’s futball schedule.  The excitement of this trip slowly built up as the years passed.

Then…Evan.

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Our diagnosis for Evan changed everything.  We had to refocus our lives and our priorities quickly.  The son we had prayed for was not the son we were going to get.

As the medical bills piled up, I knew what we had to do.

As we prayed about our decision to seek care in Boston, I knew what we had to do.

Even with the the donations from family, friends and strangers – monetary, flights, food and such – the generosity just wasn’t enough.

But, we knew what we had to do.

It seemed like God had been preparing us for years for what we thought was going to be Italy…but instead was our Holland…our Evan.

While I sit here and type…through tears….the part of me that is hurting the most is the selfish part that is saying, “That money for the dream trip to Italy was supposed to be for Craig and me” but instead every penny has been used for bills, medication…and all those miles were used for flights for Boston (which by the way…what a joke…5 years of saving and it got us 4 tickets!)

The angry part…the selfish part is failing to see what is right before me.

Evan has taken my marriage to places Craig and I never realized.

We have been to the deepest, darkest caves and pits of sadness.

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We have been to the highest of the highs and shouted from the “mountain” tops our joy and gratitude.

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We have experienced meals that were life changing.

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We have walked the streets and seen God’s beauty.

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I’d be lying if I told you that I’m ok with not being in Italy today.

Craig is home sick from work with a mystery virus that landed him in the ER last night, the kids are fighting already (and it’s not quite 8am), I have chores to do and bills to pay.

But, if I fail to see what is right before me…I fail to see the beauty of the blessings.

To my best guy – we didn’t get to go to Italy.  I’m not sure when we will be able to…ha…I’m not sure if we will get a vacation any time soon!  But, I would not change a single moment of our life.  Marriage is much like Italy, isn’t it.  We plan and we think it is going to be this beautiful magical thing…and then the day in and the day out of marriage suddenly aren’t as magical and perfect as we had thought.

But, there is beauty in it.  There is so much beauty in this life – in this marriage – that we never planned for. 

Thank you for taking me to places I never thought were possible.  I’m so thankful that we travel this journey together. 

My love and my life to you always….


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Comments

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Happy 10th Anni buddy!!! As always you inspire me with your writing. It truly is a big one and one to be so proud of. Italy isn’t going anywhere. Let’s plan a 20th one there!!! LOVE YOU!