Not too long ago, Thorin and I were standing in the hallway of a hospital. A young woman walked up to us wearing a very-new-looking navy blue nurse uniform. On one of her shirtsleeves there was a badge with the words: Nursing Student.
She leaned in close: “I have four people with Down syndrome in my family!”
That was noteworthy, especially considering I would learn they were all biological children spread between two generations. But — what stood out as much as that fact was that she said all the words in a normal tone of voice except for: Down syndrome.
To anyone passing us in the hall or to Thorin standing next to me it must have sounded like her voice dropped out for a second or so.
This whispering the words ‘Down syndrome’ has happened to me on numerous occasions with Thorin present. Actually it only happens when he is present.
The first time it happened I started whispering, too. I’m a polite person—seriously, I am– so I was trying to match their vocal level. I whispered the entire conversation but I had no idea why.
The next time it happened– I got IT. It was those words specifically that were being whispered. It made me think of all the whispered words I had heard over my lifetime: sex, abortion, AIDS, weed, Kenny G. It was clearly time to take back ‘Down syndrome’ by saying it loud and proud which is what I did in response to future whispering.
To be fair– maybe in their minds they whisper because they assumed Thorin doesn’t know he has Down syndrome. In that case keep your story to yourself. Thorin understands words in general and he knows whispering implies secrets.
So, back to this particular day when the student nurse said that– I turned to Thorin: “She has four people with Down syndrome in her family!”
He looked up at me and rolled his eyes. Fortunately she didn’t notice.
Thorin’s in a my-mom-is-a-nerd-phase that I’m guessing lasts about a decade.
Regardless, I still think it’s my job to say ‘Down syndrome’ at the same level as all the other words.