About Kari Wagner-Peck

Kari Wagner-Peck lives with her husband and son in Maine. She is a writer & storyteller who home schools with her son. She is the author of the memoir Not Always Happy: An Unusual Parenting Journey, May, 2017, Central Recovery Press. She has been published at The New York Times Well Family blog, The Huffington Post, The The Good Men Project, The Sydney Morning Herald Daily Life blog, BLOOM and Love That Max among others. Author page: kariwagnerpeck.com Twitter @KariWagnerPeck and Facebook: www.facebook.com/NotAlwaysHappyLive/ Email: kariwagnerpeck@gmail.com

So the Universe totally knows what it’s doing.

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Thorin and I were shopping at Hannaford’s. I noticed a petite women with brown hair pulled in a neat pony tail. I saw her first in the produce department. She almost ran into me with her cart because she was staring so intently at Thorin. Then in the aisle with soap and tooth paste she almost ran into me again. This time our eyes met briefly. Hers were rimmed in red.

After two more run-ins I figured it’s definitely about Thorin and likely his Down syndrome. Either that or she was trying to injure me. We got into line behind her– not by design but hers was the shortest line. She looked at Thorin, “You are a good looking boy.”

“Thank you.”

“I’ve been watching you– pushing the cart and helping. You’re a big help.”

“Thank you.”

I bet you’re a smart guy.”

“I am.”

She never looked at me. After she was done checking out she turned towards Thorin,

“Good-bye now.”

“Good-bye!”

When we got to our car I saw her sitting almost directly across from us in her car– watching him. I asked Thorin to take the cart over to the stall about 20 feet away. She watched him look both ways, cross the lane, return the cart and then look both ways again and run over to me. As I started up the car my phone rang. Thorin whines if I talk in the car. I turned on music and stepped outside to answer. It was a short conversation. I hung up and looked across the way. She was still there staring. I walked toward her smiling and waving. She looked confused. I was confused, too. I continued.

When I got to her car she put down the window.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“Is it hard?” she said pointing toward Thorin.

“Because he has Down syndrome?”

“Yes.”

“He has to work harder then most people.”

“What about you and your husband?”

“He’s our only kid so I don’t know if he’s harder,” I said laughing.

Her eyes were wet, “Our doctor thought we should have an abortion.”

I put my hand on the edge of  her window. I didn’t feel like I could reach in and touch her but I wanted to connect. I waited.

“We agreed. Now we have two girls.”

“Oh.”

“He didn’t have anything good to say about my baby” she said shaking her head, “I think he was wrong.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“Did you know?”

“I did. We adopted him. So we never had the doctor full of gloom and doom but we did have family and friends that said awful things. People are really ignorant about Down syndrome.”

“It’s been seven years.”

“There’s grief support groups. Or counselors….” I trailed off.

She squinted at me, “I have no idea what I’d say.”

“Tell them you stalked a boy with Down syndrome at the grocery store. That’s a great opening line.”

She laughed which was a relief.

“You have a good son.”

“I do. Thanks.”

As I walked back to my car I heard her drive away.

author’s note: I am pro-choice. I also think any medical professional still frightening parents with never true information about people with Down syndrome is a menace.