Monday, November 19, 2007

I will remember article

I found this today, enjoy.


On Friday, June 15th, 2001 my son, Ben, graduates with his sixth grade class from Brandon Elementary School in Goleta, California. For my family, this will be a day remembered long after most memories fade.

The sixth grade students will stand proudly on stage, each looking out in the audience searching for their parents, and when the eyes of parents and child finally meet, big smiles will appear on everyone's faces and hands will wave.

Parents will look to whoever stands next to them and say, "That's my Johnny," or "Doesn't my Melinda look so beautiful," and "Which child is yours?"

Ben won't be looking for his father or me; he will just know we are there. We won't wave, because he wouldn't be able to see if we did. But he will know the pride we carry in our hearts and in our souls - he will feel it.

Maybe, I'll wave anyway.

As other parents yell out children's names trying to catch their attention for the photo opportunity that will grace the pages of the family album for decades to come, Ben's father and I won't yell out. Ben wouldn't hear it if we did.

But, that's okay. A camera cannot capture what Ben's fellow classmates feel about him as a valued friend and neighbor.

Maybe, I'll yell out his name anyway.

Ben's father and I will almost certainly be sitting with dozens of other proud parents, tears collecting in their eyes, as they reflect upon all the years that preceded this momentous day and what it took to get there.

It was probably a hard road traveled.

Some parents will be fantasizing of the rewards they shall reap from the commitment to their children's education, imagining a future with a Nobel Prize winning scientist, a famous surgeon, or a high-powered lawyer in the family. Others will be thinking about the symbolism of the ceremony - their child's biggest step so far toward independence, self-sufficiency, and adulthood.

After all, that is what parents are supposed to prepare their children to achieve.

My thoughts will be elsewhere.

It wasn't long ago that Ben's participation in the regular classroom of his neighborhood school was not possible.

Thirty years ago Ben would not have had a chance to know about school because a public education was not available. Ten years ago Ben's only choice would have been a classroom for the "severely handicapped," far away from his neighborhood in a room at the back of a school campus, where his peers would never have known he existed.

Ben's graduation on Friday will be symbolic of tremendous change in how people with disabilities are perceived and Ben has made contributions toward this change that will likely never be rewarded, touted, or even acknowledged the way academic excellence is.

But Ben doesn't care and neither do I. Not much anyway.

Ben's reward is that his life has helped shape the future for other children with and without disabilities and someday all children will become a natural part of the human experience.

I plan on living to see this day.

As we watch our children in the graduation procession, I will remember the years that have passed since Ben's first day of kindergarten when he lined up with his new classmates to enter their classroom for the first time. The teacher said to each child, including Ben, "Welcome, I am so glad you are in my class."

I will remember when a parent ran up to me on the first day of fourth grade and said all her daughter could say to her was, "I finally get to be in Ben's class."

I will remember the day the principal said to me, "Terry, I have been getting letters from parents requesting their children be in the same class as Ben. What am I going to do? I can't possibly accommodate all the requests."

I will remember all the kids that wanted to be Ben's roommate on their adventure to Astro Camp last year, and seeing Ernesto hold Ben's hand as the class watched a movie in a Hollywood theatre last week.

I will remember when Isaac accidentally broke Ben's hearing aide case, and he asked his grandfather to drive him downtown to buy a new one. Isaac waited in the school parking lot the next morning and when Ben and I arrived, Isaac ran up to the car, new case in hand, and said, "I know how important this is to you, Ben."

I will remember the look on the on the faces of his classmates and friends, when he pushes the lever on his new wheelchair and slowly rises up to stand tall next to the friends he has learned to love and appreciate so much.

I will remember.

I dedicate today's column to Steve Minjarez, the director of Pupil Personnel and Special Services, Goleta Union School District. You made it possible.

Terry Boisot is the parent of a child with disabilities, serves on the board of directors of Alpha Resource Center of Santa Barbara and The Arc of the United States, and is the Chair of the Board of Directors of TheArcLink. She is concerned about all disability matters and welcomes comments at

1 comment:

  1. well, damnit, this made me cry.

    thanks, amiga.