Beth’s Journey written by her mother Laurel Mills
Beth came into the world in March of 1966. I thought she was beautiful with her thatch of dark brown hair, her sweet little nose, her rosebud mouth. My mother worried, however, that her ears seemed a little misshapen. Her worry grew as Beth grew. When Beth didn’t roll over, or sit up, or babble like her other grandchildren had, my mother expressed her concern. Beth’s dad and I were so young and naïve, just 20, that we saw nothing wrong. But by the time Beth was two and still not walking or attempting to talk, I also realized she was not progressing normally. Then began our journey from doctor to doctor to find out what was wrong with our perfect child. There were not many resources available in the 1960’s in Maine, and so we were told to “just take her home and love her.” One doctor suggested we put her in an institution and forget about her. Well, we did love her, immensely, and we would never give her up to an institution—still a common practice then. In those days, she was medically labelled mentally retarded.
With a lot of therapy, Beth finally learned to walk at 3½ and to talk at around seven or eight. She started special schooling at age 4 and graduated from a special education program at age 21. Beth has always had a strong spirit and has achieved once unthought-of accomplishments. She can swim, bowl, dance, ride a three-wheel bike, laugh and wink.
When she was forty, we learned through more sophisticated testing that Beth has the genetic condition 1p36 Deletion Syndrome. Now 51, she lives in a small group home just 10 minutes from my house, and she works in a sheltered workshop. Her days have normalcy and purpose, and most days she is happy. Her greatest obstacle is a characteristic that some 1p36 people struggle with—severe behavior disorder. But dedicated care takers and professionals have helped her muddle through with only occasional serious incidents.
Just the other day, the owner of her group home gave Beth a necklace with a gold medallion. When the necklace was clasped around her neck, Beth thrust her hand in the air triumphantly and yelled, “Me big winner!” Yes, she is a winner. She has won our hearts.
Laurel Mills has written Beth’s story in the books of poems Hidden Seed and Rumor of Hope, available at Encircle Publications
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