A Story by Richard D. Reilly, “The Grandparent Connection”

Dear Friends,

I want to share this little story about my grandson Louis.  He’s fifteen years old now.  He was three when we opened the doors to GiGi’s Playhouse NYC in early 2012.  Wow!  How time flies.  Marilee and I hosted events those first few months, helping to put our NYC Playhouse on the map.  We all wondered how the community would respond, how our GiGi’s family would grow.  And I remember how quickly my expectations grew.

I was born in 1945 and raised amid the prevailing detrimental stereotypes of the time.  The term “expectation” did not exist for those with disability, or “special needs”.  And it would be nearly fifty years before the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in 1990.  Much has changed for the better, but still the question persists: where is all this going?  For families new to the world of Down syndrome, it is only natural to have concerns, questions and doubts.  We’ll never have all the answers.  But at GiGi’s, like any family, we are here for each other.  We are road builders!   I reflect back a few years to those young lives.  The pioneers: Troy, Malik, Laura, Henry, Sophia, Aidan, P.J., Carter, our Louis – and little Noah, who is now skiing in the Special Olympics!  Troy completed two years of college, and is our current NYC GiGi’s Ambassador. Malik is employed at Cafe Joyeux on the upper Eastside.  What an impact you all have had on this grandfather’s life!  Thank you!  Take a moment and enjoy the possibilities in Louis’s story:

On Passing By

Our grandson, Louis, was with us recently.  He loves being here in Connecticut, in the same house where his mother grew up.  Louis is fifteen now.  He doesn’t need to be “entertained” as on a vacation, he relishes the everyday happenings in our neighborhood.  Food, basketball and undivided attention are the main attractions.  Did you know that a gluten-free diet can be made to be extraordinary?  (Try King Arthur GF Chocolate Cake mix.)  And miniature golf, a major passion.  We two played our season opening practice round in April at Cove Marina – we each got a hole in one!  This afternoon was for keeps; I actually won.

Norwalk is an historic coastal town on the Long Island Sound, incorporated in 1651.  On the way to the beach and mini-golf course, we passed the Norwalk Green.  It is postcard picturesque, with a quaint gazebo and bordering church steeples.  The First Congregational Church, a white clapboard structure was built in 1924 to replace the original 1848 church that had succumbed to a fire. Whenever we drive by this building Louis remarks, ”That’s where I’m going to get married!”  On the way home, I asked him if he wanted to go inside.  I pulled to the curb opposite the entrance, put on the flashers and explained that if the doors were open, he could go in and say a prayer.  I watched from the car as he eagerly ran up the white granite steps.  The two middle doors were locked.  He tried the side doors – the same result.  I thought he’d come right back down to the car, so I turned to look for traffic.  Life sends us rare gifts when we least expect them.  I glanced again at the church to see Louis, at the center double doors, kneeling reverently on the century worn threshold, praying.  My heart leapt at what was for him a simple act of faith.  I wondered, in the long history of this congregation, how many professed the depth of faith that Louis was expressing?

For Louis, everything is possible.  A locked door is not an obstacle.  I don’t doubt that his prayer passed right through the aged hardwood, and that our smiling God assured him the doors will be open on his wedding day.

Richard D. Reilly (Poppy)

The Grandparent Connection  

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