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from Fall 97 issue

It Happened to Mary and Joseph

by Claire Muller, Parent, Winchester, KY

Editor's Note: One day I came across this posting on the Deafblind Listserv from Claire to one of her on-line friends. I was so moved by what she wrote and knew that the many parents who read SEE/HEAR would relate. I contacted Claire by email and she gave me permission to share this with you. She also said she would love to hear from parents in Texas. Her email address is tmuller@kih.net and her ground mail address is 160 Patton Lane, Winchester, KY 40391. She also shared this about her daughter, Shelly:

"Shelly is 11 years old now, and has been our foster child since she was 2 1/2 years old when she first left the hospital. Stomach problems keep her on an IV for 12 hours a night, but she is up and about during the day. She is blind, with some light perception, has severe-moderate hearing loss in the left ear, and profound loss in her right. She is bright and inquisitive, and happy. She is a joy in our lives."

It was that Jesus in the Temple thing. That thing that happens to most parents at one time or another, and all we can think is that we are in good company because it happened to Mary and Joseph.

It was early spring and our first very warm day. We drove home from church and up our long driveway. You can't see our house from the road, and the driveway curves and makes our home even more out of the way. I was thinking about getting out of dress-up clothes, and Tom was thinking that the van was clunking.

After helping Shelly, who was then seven, out of her seat, I let her play around the yard and van with the other kids, who were reluctant to leave the beautiful day to go in the house. Tom thought he could stay out and make a few adjustments on the vehicle without getting dirty, so I ran in to change into shorts. It took a few minutes to locate my summer clothes, then I went out to find out if tuna fish, our regular Sunday lunch thing, was going to be okay with Tom. I found him still engaged in the mysteries of guys, expecting to come to terms with this clunking noise, and do it before the problem's cost exceeded the original cost of the van. I said, "So where did Shelly poke off to?"

He gave me the beginnings of a wary look and answered, "She went inside with you ... I thought."

"I left her here by the van, playing when I went in to change, and I thought you knew it!"

Mary must have had the same disbelief in her voice when she confronted Joseph, though I am glad I didn't have anyone universally important to the world's salvation to start searching for. It was a bad enough feeling we were both having as we started in around the yard, which is fenced in a vague sort of way with black plank horse fencing, and not catching any sign of Shelly.

When you search for a deafblind child it is different from any other 'kid search'. You don't bother to yell her name. You look in the unlikely places, such as near the compost pile. She has before wandered briefly into the woods surrounding our home, where branches can be a threat. And once into the field across the driveway on our hundred acres of tall grass and cattle. So all of our children without the excuse of a wheelchair were dispatched to these areas.

I was about to check the fields myself, when I saw an awful look come over Tom's face. It seemed impossible to think about, but all the way down our long and winding driveway, and not far from the road, is the bridge, with no sides and the water up high on this early spring day. As soon as the thought struck him, Tom took off. I have never seen him run so fast; he may have never done so. He was like a crazy person, running through the field alongside the drive and out of my sight. I caught up visually with him at the bend of the drive, still knowing that it was impossible that Shelly could have gone so far in such a short time.

Tom had crossed the bridge and was just catching up with Shell two or three feet before she would have stepped into the busy, blind curve of the road. I watched as he just touched her arm, and she happily turned to him, without any fuss took his hand and let him lead her back on the long walk home. They crossed the bridge with the water rushing below, and the worn out guardian angels sitting on the sides in well deserved rest. I printed in my mind the sight of her; with her soft green dress and sneakers, with her amazingly deep red hair, thick and flowing past her waist, with her innocent, happy face upturned in the warm breeze, her brave, jaunty walk.

Tom had said nothing to Shell. She couldn't have heard the things another child would have heard, "You had us scared to death!! Don't you know you could have killed yourself!" All the things an anxious parent blurts out in fear. She couldn't see the cars, or the water, or the fright in our faces. She was totally and immeasurably innocent. She had felt the world, and it was good, and she went out to embrace it.


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