“We can still come back and win. It’ll only take 2 touchdowns and a field goal,” I said to my grandfather during one of the many brutal football bowl games of my childhood.
“No. They won’t.” He sat with his arms crossed, defeat accepted, but he still watched the game to the end.
“You’re a pessimist.” I moved to the floor in front of the TV.
“I’m a realist,” he said.
A Pessimist, an Optimist, a Realist
“A realist,” he explained to me, “doesn’t think the worst will happen every time, as a pessimist does. A realist takes life for what it is and accepts the whole package. A realist doesn’t invest worry and emotion into a lost cause; a realist deals with what is real.”
The other day I was thinking to myself if someone had told me – that young 10-year-old me – “In 35 years or so, your son (to be) will release a children’s book. A really great one, in fact,” I’d have likely nodded my head. Sure. Sounds good. No doubt, I was an optimist.
If then, only 9 years later, as I sat in the hospital room having heard the words “Down syndrome” about the sweet son I had only just met, would I still have believed that future? Would I have believed it possible that we would create stories together and he would outpace my imagination and storytelling skills? Well, yes, I think I could still have said, “OK. I can believe it,” because, as people said, I was an optimist.
Down Syndrome Twenty Plus Years Ago
Five years after that, while immersed in the stubborn red tape and presumptions of the public school system, I fought for a classroom that would integrate and challenge my son. I knew there was talent, intelligence, and ambition wrapped up in the makeup of my boy, and these traits required a push from his educators. The school couldn’t/wouldn’t accept this and I lost. Neither my insistence of my son’s needs and skill-sets nor my attorney’s request got through the bureaucracy.
The “system” didn’t believe in Marcus, but his family and friends, we did. We moved on to the Madonna School, where defeat was not an option, and soon Marcus and I began creating together on the weekends.
Now, here we are. Marcus is a 29-year-old with Down syndrome who has already released his first storybook for children, Black Day: The Monster Rock Band, with an animated short, and book two in the works. This is just the beginning; there are many more stories and scripts to come I’m sure, because Marcus is a creative, talented person with stories to tell. I knew this all along.
So, like my grandfather before me, it turns out I’m not an optimist, I’m actually a realist.
*Most of this was originally published in August 2015, as we begin to tune up Book Two, I thought it a good time to share again.