The zoo is a weird place. Animals are trapped in cages, and people are constantly looking in on them. These wild animals are a spectacle for others to watch.
Bringing my children to the zoo has always been a bittersweet experience. My son adores looking into the exhibits, and knows his way around our local zoo. My daughter enjoys the animals and people watching.
The thing that triggers me when at the zoo, is the glaring, in your face, large amounts of families that are there. But why is that bothersome?
Seeing so many families with typical children makes me question how our child ended up with a rare disease.
I think, what sometimes sneaks up on me, is the sadness I feel at times knowing what a struggle it is for my daughter, and the truth of the matter is, I still do grieve the life I envisioned for her. I grieve mostly for me because, as I have said before, she only knows and feels happiness.
Today, I took my son to the zoo.
I noticed a group of disabled adults. One man in particular kept saying hello to me and waving. I smiled and waved back.
My sunglasses fogged up as I choked back tears that were inevitably falling down my cheeks.
I don’t know what emotion was strongest, but there were so many thoughts circling my brain. I let the tears fall for two seconds, wiped them away, and picked up my son in a huge embrace to distract him from any sad moments that I was experiencing.
I think what hit me the hardest was knowing that people were looking at this group of individuals, knowing that they were different. I felt people were intimidated and didn’t know how to approach them. I then placed Hailey in that group of people, and for a moment of time, worried about her future.
It is so often that I am in the present, thinking about next steps for her. But I try so hard to shield my own thoughts about what the future holds.
What if there is never a cure or a treatment? Am I building up hope? Have I accepted this diagnosis fully? Coping with the unknown has never been a strong suit of mine, and I continue to battle with this.
Being at the zoo , this symbolic place full of animals confined by cages and glass walls, separates them from society. Here I was, faced with my worst fears- that Hailey will be closed off from an inclusive world.
We walked through the park and eventually passed by the same group of individuals. The kind man who waved to me previously, waved again and said hi with a huge smile beaming across his face.
I simply asked him how he was. He said good and continued to smile. It was a simple conversation between another individual and me.
How many people actually stop and ask a typical person how they are? A disabled person? Someone who is different? Probably never.
My hope is that one day, Hailey will be at the zoo enjoying herself. Hopefully, a stranger will also say hi and asks her how she is.