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Raising Dustin

By Jo Ann Harder Lang

When  I met and married my husband, I came to better understand people with disabilities. I worked in a nursing home and was familiar with caring for various age people and those with various limitations. 

                 What I had not known were people with disabilities living in their family home. I would soon come to learn.

                  My husband had a younger sister with Down syndrome. The interaction with Becky was much different then what I knew. Becky was personable and had a zest for teasing. Being raised with twelve siblings was definitely a benefit for her. The more I knew her more compelled I felt to adopt a baby with Down syndrome.

                   On May 18, 1980 Mt St. Helens blew, ash fell everywhere; on our home, our car and on us! We had to wear face masks when ever we went outside. In the mist of the volcano our family welcomed home our five month old son, Dustin who we nicknamed Dusty.

                    Like his Aunt Becky, Dusty had that zeal for life. He smiled a lot and was content. During the adoption process we heard many negative comments about Down syndrome. Heart problems were the number one on the list of many. Next, they can never take care of themselves; itís a lifelong commitment and on the story goes. We chose not to listen, after all Becky was in the family and thriving. We saw no valid reason not to proceed with our plan to adopt. We had heard there was a need for families to adopt babies with Down syndrome and felt called by God to open our hearts and our home.

                    Dusty always had a zesty personality and he learned quickly. At eighteen months he was walking well. One day he pushed the kitchen chair over to the sink, climbed up on the chair and turned the water on. He loved water and would take what ever steps necessary to get to it. That proved to be a problem though when he started Pre School.

                  We enrolled Dusty {and ourselves} in our local college PRIDE program for infants with Down syndrome where we were taught to help Dusty reach his full potential. There were gross and fine motor concepts and speech we would work on daily at home. At age three the children would go to the public school preschool program. It wasnít long and Dusty would be turning three. I dreaded this new milestone in our lives and knew I needed the Lords help in adjusting.

                  Dustyís first day of school was full of excitement yet cast an overtone of gloom for me. Although itís been many years ago I can still see Dusty sporting his brown corduroy pants and Ziggy stocking hat. As the bus pulled up to our driveway my heart sank to my feet. The dreaded day was here and I have to let go. Dustyís eyes sparked with mischief and his excitement helped subdue my fears for the moment.

                The bus driver greeted us with a hearty hello! Hello there, you must be Dusty, I answered yes, this is Dusty I replied. We helped get Dusty up the big steps. His stubby legs could not reach but he tried to help us help him. Once in the bus seat all I could see was the Ziggy on top of his hat. I felt the tears welling up inside my body but I maintained. Once the bus pulled away I broke down and sobbed all the way back up to the house. Once I composed my self, I tried to busy myself with household chores but time seemed to drag. As it got nearer to his time to come home, I waited patiently near the mailbox at the end of our long driveway. The frost that had been on the ground when the bus picked Dusty up to go to school was now melted away like my tears. I had asked God to watch over Dusty as he went off to school. I asked for a hedge of protection to guard him in his day.

                  I felt a sense of joy when I saw the little yellow bus turn the corner and start down our street. Once again I saw Ziggy only this time I saw his face not the back of his head. The bus pulled close and its breaks squeaked as it stopped. The door opened and I could hear Dusty jabbering. Although it was difficult to understand him you could tell by the tone and speed of his speech if he was happy or upset, this was his happy speech. It was apparent that Dusty enjoyed school as much as I disliked it.

                  The years passed and Dusty grew into a fine young man. All the concerns of others disappeared. Dusty only had difficulty with recurrent ear infections and did have Eustachian tubes placed twice. Whenever he caught cold we would start him on Dimetapp right away which helped prevent fluid from forming behind his ears.

               Weíre proud to say that in 1999 Dusty gradated from high school. Through the high schools on the job training program known as OJT Dusty held a job at a nearby Pizza Hut. Today, Dusty lives semi independently in a studio with others with various limitations. He has a job and travels independently on the bus.

                 Since Ziggy, Iíve learned what it means to truly trust God. I trust God with my sonís life; after allÖÖ..he belongs to God.

                 As for Becky; she turned 50 years old last year and is doing well.

                     Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. Psalm 37:5 NLT