These letters are in response to a letter written by a woman whose daughter is having difficulty getting dates because her father has a chronic illness. She also pointed out that there is an assumption that life in their home is depressing because of the illness. These responses deal with both issues, but how they contradict the myth of depression is particularly interesting.
Dear Ms. Novick,
I read the letter addressing the issue of shidduchim in a family with a disability and I would like to share my own experience as a disabled mother . . . but my life as a disabled person didn’t start as a mother, it starts as a very disabled child who contracted polio at the age of 2.
I grew up in a very happy environment. I learned at an early age that people resent unhappiness, not disability. My father and mother created a home with laughter, optimism, and acceptance, and above all with the knowledge that the Hashem is our Ruler and we have to accept our share in life. Ivdu es Hashem b’simcha, that was my father’s, z”l, motto until the end. My house was always the center of gathering. My parents, my brother, and I always had friends around, and so, my own home continues to be the gathering place. On Shabbosim, people drop by to visit, not because of chesed toward a disabled person, but because my house is fun. I love to tell stories and jokes of things that I’ve seen, experienced or read. My friends visit or call me to schmooze, some of them to uplift their own spirits; like my father, I love to make people laugh.
With regard to shidduchim, I believe it is a difficult parsha for everyone, k’krias Yam Suf. People today have become increasingly judgmental, but I don’t believe that attributing the lack of potential shidduchim to a parent that is handicapped is correct. People find their zivug through their own merit and hishtadlus, and we parents have to give chizuk and stand behind our children with emunah, conviction, and a positive attitude.
As you wisely mentioned, depression can be, and should be treated because just like laughter and joyousness, depression can be catchy, and one member of the family can create an environment that affects the entire family.
As I mentioned before, I have four children, all of them sociable with wonderful personalities. Two of them are, B”H, married, and I don’t believe my disability hindered their shidduchim in any way. I have two more daughters and IY”H, and I hope when their time comes for shidduchim they are will be appreciated for all their middos and for who they are.
I’m a nurse. I’ve seen terrible illness in couples with no history of illness in their family and no illness where the family history is full of problems. When are we going to realize we are just not in control of these things? There’s more to a successful marriage than the fear of one partner inheriting an illness. It’s how you cope with what G-d gives you that is important. It’s loving and respecting each other. These things make a marriage and family no matter what happens.
Being the daughter of a handicapped mother my whole life, I’m proud to say that it has been a privilege more than a burden. My mother, although wheelchair-bound for many years has taught my siblings and me such important lessons in life. The first and most important being to serve G-d with joy. My mother has been handicapped for her whole life and struggled in so many ways to be like any other regular person. She has always had a beautiful smile on her face. She is an inspiration to my husband, my children and me.
My mother became ill as a child and never gave up hope. She got herself through all the years of schooling, although at times alone and in hospital beds; through, surgeries and therapies she managed to get a degree as a language specialist. She got married at 23 and had several children, all healthy B”H.
When I was dating, it never crossed my mind that it would be an issue for me not to find my zivug (intended). I am so proud of who my mother is and what she’s taught me. She is my strength and hero.
My children adore my parents and have even learned to be sensitive to my mother’s needs. We were just visiting them for Pesach and I was so touched to see my 6-year-old daughter jump up from playing and run to push my mother to the room she was struggling to get herself to. My 2 ½-year-old just happened to pop out of the house elevator all proud that he managed to run it himself (just like Bubby) and my 10-year-old son said going to visit Bubby and Zaidy is like going to Gan Eden.
You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org