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Uncharted Territory

Like most families with a high school junior, we have begun the college discussion at our house. Higher ed is not uncharted territory for Tim and I. Both of us have a master’s degree. I taught at a college for two years. Tim currently works for a college. Sending our sons, who have a rare disease and a physical disability, to college is uncharted territory. But everything about raising our sons has been a step into the unknown so this new chapter won’t be any different.

Some of my friends, who are at the same place in life with their kids, have shared feelings of dread, sadness, and trepidation at the prospect of their child heading off to college in a year or two. Where did the time go, they ask, how will I cope with them gone? I know it’s normal to feel these emotions as a parent in this stage of life, but not for one minute have I felt them.

The truth is if our boys successfully launch to college, a job, and independence, it will be the greatest accomplishment of my life.

Fourteen years ago, when we sat in that drab clinical room with the “we’re a teaching hospital” entourage and received a clinical diagnosis for Peter, we had no idea what the future held for him and my unborn baby. Little was known about the disease. We were left to draw our own conclusions which, of course, included a world in which our children did not outlive us. We definitely did not imagine a world in which they went to college and lived on their own.

We’ve learned a lot about our sons’ disease in the intervening years, and an independent life has become more of a possibility in our minds. We have met wonderful adults affected by the same disease who give us a clear example of what the future may look like for our sons. Many challenges remain but they don’t seem as insurmountable as before.

Of course, I’ll be sad to see my sons go off to college, but at the same time I will be doing a happy dance as we drive away from whatever school they choose. That day will bring a reality that I had not thought possible.


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