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I’m a hopeless romantic.

I believe in true love. Legend has it in my family that my father, handsome in his Air Force uniform, walked into a dress shop in rural Pennsylvania one day, spoke for about 30 seconds to a young undergraduate, and then left. The young undergrad broke up with her boyfriend that evening after she finished her shift in the dress shop where her future mother-in-law also worked. My mother and father were married for over 50 years before he died last autumn.

Several years ago, in a last-minute change of plans, I went to a foreign language bookstore in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I had ordered German books for quite some time. I had never been there in person as it was hundreds of miles from where I lived. I said to a friend about the young graduate student working in the store, “That is the most beautiful person I have ever seen in my life.” Ben and I have been together 14 years.

I love symbolism, happy endings, princesses meeting their princes, or princes meeting their princes (or princesses meeting their princesses!). Before we became parents, Ben and I moved to a state—one of only three at the time—where we could be legally married.

I ran a few road races in that state the year Ellen was born, including a half marathon the day before she came into our world. I had started to cramp up after only three miles and then, magically, the cramps disappeared. I thought, “I wonder if this is a sign that my daughter is being born.” I got home and checked the phone. Ellen was on her way!

It’s been quite the journey since then, one that has taken us to Germany, Iowa, and now Hawaii. Ellen’s extra chromosome has taken me places in my understanding of the world to which I likely never would have gone were it not for how my daughter joined Ben and me.daddy-und-ellen

Yesterday, we looked forward to celebrating Halloween with our pumpkin. Ellen did participate in her school’s Halloween parade. She also had a little swelling on the side of her neck. Ben took her to her pediatrician who said this was pretty normal. Ellen’s pediatrician is the son of a wonderful couple we have met in our Buddhist temple community, which is connected to the school where we both work.

At the end of his long day, Ellen’s pediatrician and I debriefed over the phone. He mentioned that the swelling appeared to be “pretty routine.” For children with Trisomy 21, what Ben and I call the “L word” is a concern that we keep in a small cupboard in our minds and rarely open. Ellen’s doctor spoke to that concern only in that he said it is “highly unlikely.” He was patient, reasonable and kind. I timed the call so that I would not go over 15 minutes. (I stayed under my time limit.)

I don’t want to go into the “L word” for this posting. It’s a topic that I will write about some day with information that has been valuable to Ben, Ellen, and me, that could help readers, and which has informed the direction of our family’s nutritional regimen.

For this posting, though, I will close by noting that I’ve been home with Ellen this morning, and I’ve been able during a busy time at work to appreciate even more than I already do the blessings of my daughter, family, and our community in Hawaii. In my heart I absolutely know Ellen is in great shape. Her clear words, sentences, and thoughts these past few hours have been a lovely reminder of her fun, keen intelligence. Trisomy 21 has changed the direction of the miles Ben and I have walked, but every step has been worth it.

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