We publish below an article originally published on the Italian newspaper “Avvenire“, containing a testimony from Gigi De Palo, President of our Member, “Forum delle Associazioni Familiari”.
I have the impression I am living in a dream. I still do not understand what happened, but I feel a vortex of new sensations in the heart that I cannot explain. A spring confusion, a crush that I had not planned is conditioning these strange days. Giorgio Maria has already changed my life. He is not just a child with Down syndrome, it is an earthquake tearing down my, now useless, certainties.
Melting like snow in the sun. This is a dominant thought. It’s the feeling I had as a child going to sleep the day after the arrival of Santa Claus and waking up excited and happy because of that unexpected gift I had not asked for in my letter but that pleased me more than the others. The fantasy of life that exceeds my rigid and repetitive patterns. The concreteness that bursts in, breaks down and makes abstract theories ridiculous. Amoris Laetitia thunders in my face without any mediation. And I find myself, at the age of forty-one, a father again, riding a moped around Rome, humming songs by Claudio Baglioni. I am surprised to be moved by happiness for something that, perhaps, should worry me.
Being a father of a Down Syndrome kid is no and will not be a picnic. And above all it is not a medal to show people how good one is. I never liked the best students in the class… And for the first time I take note of the silent army of mothers and fathers who, every single day, bend over backwards, without clamour for a child in difficulty. It’s really true: reality is a punch in the gut that wakes you up from the stories you tell yourself. Then I look at my wife. She is also in a haze of love as I had only seen her when she became a mother for the first time. Lost in love. This new son is the cherry on the sundae for our big family. It is easy to speak of the beauty of the family when all is going well. It becomes a little more difficult when life messes with your plans.
It is a shock when you imagine yourself on two straight tracks and instead you find yourself at full speed on a rollercoaster. Here’s the best part. Now I will find out who I really am. Now I will hit my limits, those that I tend to sweep under the carpet. And mysteriously I feel less tired because I am not living just for myself anymore. I lose myself, I abandon myself, I deny myself. I am willing to give my life for this slightly more fragile child. My old fears can no longer continue. It’s beautiful not to be entitled to fear, to have excuses. Giorgio Maria, you are this jolt that awakens me from me.
It’s you who reminds me that life is stronger than death. Love is greater than fear. Your little hand that held my finger through the slot of the incubator was enough to embrace me from inside. How strange: it was enough to become your father to finally feel like a son.