||CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
||October 26, 2012
A mother recounts how the birth of Andrew with Down syndrome and the loss to cancer of a second baby start a family's journey through the maze of parenthood. With the support of a loving father, mother, and two younger siblings, Andrew mastered the skills of life and became a contributing member of society. In spite of coping with schizophrenia in his later years, Andrew remained active, happy, and full of love until Alzheimer's stole his memory and brought his life to a close a the age of fifty-two.
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Vromans, Pasadena, CA
"To know Andrew was to love him." This is a poignant story of a family who chose to bring up their son with Down syndrome as a fully involved member. They overcame other tragedies to help Andrew be the best he could be, being what he was with the gifts that he was given.
In spite of being told that their firstborn son would have many limitations in life, his parents were amazed at what Andrew achieved. He learned to read and write, ride a bicycle, play the piano, swim almost as well as his siblings, ride horseback and perform dressage, graduate in special education from high school, take classes at a community college, travel alone on Chicago's public transportation system, hold a job in a regular supermarket for 25 years, win ribbons and medals in Special Olympics, and serve as the lead acolyte in his church. Andrew's ability to describe the demons of his paranoid schizophrenia that plagued his later years provides a picture of a little-known ailment among the Down syndrome population.
The book is aimed at a broad audience in order to help all people understand the humanity and value of a person with a disability. This is especially important as medical technology continues to improve prenatal testing for abnormalities, and parents are faced with the heart-wrenching decision to terminate a pregnancy or risk having a less-than-perfect baby. No embryo selection or prenatal test can guarantee a flawless product or rule out unexpected calamities such as the death from cancer of our second baby.
Interwoven in the story of Andrew are half a century of changing attitudes toward the developmentally disabled; improved educational opportunities, and discussions on pre-natal testing and abortion.
"As I lay on the hard, uncomfortable hospital cart, I became more fully conscious, and a feeling of euphoria came over me. I experienced an overwhelming sense of joy that our baby, the son I had hoped for, had been born. At that moment the doctor and my husband, Pete, came and stood on either side of the gurney. As Pete took my hand, I smiled and started to say, 'Isn't it wonderful? It's a boy.' Pete's eyes looked strange, and his voice seemed to quaver as he spoke, 'Yes, but we have some bad news.'"
Wyllie (Bertram Goodhue, 2007 etc.) moves away from architectural histories to document the life of her son, Andrew, who persevered and thrived despite Down syndrome.
When the hospital staff delayed bringing Wyllie her firstborn child after his birth in 1959, she was immediately uneasy, and rightfully so: Andrew was diagnosed as a mongoloid, or what is now known as having Down syndrome. Troubled by the doctor's explanation that "sometimes the best policy is to inform the mother, before she even sees her baby, that the child has died and then place him immediately in an institution," she and her husband decide to keep their son at home an raise him as normally as possible. Wyllie details the early struggles with Andrew, from difficulties nursing to apprehension over what their family, friends and neighbors might think. She recounts their lengthy search for a school program to fit Andrew's capabilities and their great fortune in finding Lambs Farm, a still-operating facility where Andrew lived happily for most of his adult life. Wyllie's writing is lucid and remarkably forthright. She doesn't shy away from the negatives, such as her frustrations and mistakes as the parent of a special needs child, or her concerns that her other, "normal" children were somehow being slighted. She also conveys the grief she faced in the tragic cancer death of her 14-month-old second child. The book features Andrew's writing and drawings, letters from his teachers and co-workers, and interviews with many of the people in his life, which provide an intimate look at his intellectual, emotional and physical development. As a comparison, Wyllie also chronicles the experiences of two younger children, one born in 1980 and one in 1994, who also suffer from Down syndrome. Her account of the history and science behind the disorder is thoroughly researched yet highly readable, and she evenhandedly discusses the possible impacts of modern prenatal genetic testing. Of her ongoing struggle for better resources, Wyllie remembers that "the most difficult task was to capture the interest of the average person who does not have a special needs child." Transcending this aim, her book is as richly absorbing for casual readers as for caregivers and loved ones of Down syndrome children and adults.
This clear-eyed, intelligent memoir is an invaluable resource for anyone who life is affected by a developmental disability. -Kirkus Review
In Loving Andrew, Romy Wyllie has written a moving, unflinching disability memoir that tells a story most disability memoirs don't or can't touch. This is not a book about a cute, charming kid with Down syndrome; its about a cute, charming kid with Down syndrome who grows up to become an independent adult with multiple challenges. It's also about what "family," "love," and "independence" can mean -- for all of us. Loving Andrew tells a story that needs to be told, a story that needs to be heard.
Michael Bérubé, Director, Institute for the Arts and Humanities, The Pennsylvania State University.
A Gripping Story
Once you start Loving Andrew by Romy Wyllie, you'll have a hard time putting it down. Wyllie deftly combines her inspiring personal story of the challenges and joys of raising Andrew, her firstborn son who has Down syndrome, with fascinating information about how society ha progressed in the treatment and acceptance of handicapped people. This is a book for everyone.
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