Sam loved his son and raised him with incredible difficulty as a single parent caring for a child with Down Syndrome. Nothing prepared him when his ex-wife turned up unannounced for Martin’s birthday.
“Happy birthday again, my boy! Remember, I’ll always love you!” said Sam, fixing his four-year-old son’s crooked bow tie.
“Dad…don’t go!” Martin hugged Sam’s sleeve, refusing to let go.
“I tell you something. Frau Dähler here will take you to your class and introduce you to some new friends. Right, Ms. Dähler?”
The friendly teacher nodded and held out a hand for Martin to shake.
“If you don’t like her, Frau Dähler will call me and I’ll be right out and ready to take you home.”
“After a scoop of ice cream?”
“Ah, no, not a single scoop of ice cream… but two!”
That promise helped Martin feel better as he walked away from his father’s car with Ms. Dähler.
Sam decided to stay a few minutes and watch Martin take small, cautious steps towards the daycare building.
Sam couldn’t get enough of the sight. Unlike other children, Martin had only started running last week, just before his fourth birthday.
“This is normal for a child with Down syndrome like Martin,” the doctor had said.
“Huh! Normal”, Sam hated that word. And the memory of his ex-wife Faye using that word still pierced Sam’s heart like a dagger.
Their last meeting played out in Sam’s mind.
“Nothing will ever be normal again. You, me, the way we live our lives – everything will be tainted with the fact that something is wrong with our child.”
“There are many adoption agencies that we can speak to. There might be a family out there that wouldn’t mind raising a child with Down Syndrome. He won’t feel loved in our home. He will feel pitied and cared for, but not loved.”
This argument was the pinnacle for Sam and Faye. Sam was determined to raise the child and Faye filed for divorce. Baby Martin was only 7 weeks old while his family was falling apart.
“I wish I had said what was in my heart. I wish I could have let Faye know she was wrong.” Sam had this recurring thought in his head.
Family is nothing but a place for unconditional love.
He may not have told Faye that, but his life and Martin’s proved Faye wrong. For the last 3 years Sam had managed to take care of the baby and make ends meet as a self employed plumber.
Of course there were days when Sam struggled and failed, days when he had nothing left in the fridge and not enough money to buy a sandwich.
But for Martin there was always enough. The color and richness of the little boy’s room contrasted amazingly with the rest of the house.
Sam would never give up on his little boy. And Martin would never know why his mother left. It would have broken his gentle heart.
And it’s not like he’ll be seeing Faye again anytime soon. Or so he thought.
That afternoon, Sam was shocked by Ms. Daehler’s reaction when he picked up Martin from daycare.
“He’s already been picked up.”
“What do you mean? By whom?”
“Martin’s mother came by. She also showed me her ID. Faye Meier from Cologne, right? Martin was a bit moody but she calmed him down and took him to her car.”
Sam managed to give poor Mrs. Dähler a grin as she stood there nervously watching as he slammed into the steering wheel of his car, covered his panicked face with a hand and suddenly drove away.
Sam had lied to the world. Most importantly little Martin. And that lie was about to be exposed.
“I can’t allow that. I can’t let Martin know that his mother has emailed me several times over the last few months and that I just didn’t reply.”
During the drive, Martin desperately tried to call Faye, but she didn’t answer.
“I hope they’re home!”
Martin was discreet as he tiptoed from his porch to the living room. He could hear voices from the kitchen.
He carefully leaned forward and listened as his ex-wife held Martin’s hand and spoke.
“Of course it’s true! I AM your mother.”
Martin shook his head aggressively.
“Look kid, how would you like to move into a bigger house with me? There will be lots of toys and more candy than you can imagine.”
“Dad! Where’s Daddy? I want Daddy!”
Martin burst into tears that just wouldn’t stop. Sam watched from behind the wall as Faye struggled to calm her abandoned child. He waited – to see Faye hug her son, kiss him or just hold him to stop his tears. But Faye was seconds away from losing patience and yelling at Martin. And she hadn’t touched the boy once.
“Stop! Stop crying! Why don’t you hear that I’m your mother? Why don’t you call me ‘mom’ like I asked you to? I took you to eat ice cream, didn’t I? I told you I’ll give you anything you want, right? And yet here you are, crying for your father. Like a weakling!”
“That’s enough!” Sam’s angry voice shook Faye and Martin.
“The only reason I stood still for the last few minutes was to let you lock up with your son. I know why you’re really here. But I thought once you see him and hold him, you’ll realize what a beautiful boy you gave birth to.
“But no, all you wanted was for him to magically accept you as his mother. So you could force me to give you the money you hunted me for. Or what else? You’re going to threaten to take him away?”
Faye began to form her words to explain, but knew Sam was right.
“You don’t deserve this child’s presence around you, let alone his love or acceptance. And you don’t get a penny from me. We don’t owe you anything. Go now!”
As Faye got up and turned to leave, she knew she had lost her son forever. Not the money, not the dream business she needed – she walked away from her only child, who she carried for 9 beautiful months.
She took her final steps to her car and only turned once to find Sam and Martin back in the kitchen, hugging like nothing else in the world mattered.
“So how about we get the ice cream, Martin?” Sam asked, wiping away tears.
“This is the best birthday ever!” Martin nodded and screamed.
What can we learn from this story?
Every child deserves love. Every child is innocent and curious. Every child needs the affection of their parents to navigate through life. Sam dedicated his life to making Martin feel like he had more than enough.
Family is nothing but a place for unconditional love. It’s one of the most fulfilling human experiences. Faye was unaware that Martin’s denial deprived her of her loving, caring family.
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