I'd been told that my baby daughter probably wouldn't walk or talk because of her stroke. Coming to Wonderland was my defiant fist shaking in the face of such devastating news. The first person I talked to was Marilyn.
Marilyn was the director of Wonderland, a birth to three therapy organization that helped disabled or delayed children to reach their maximum potential. She was a thin gray haired woman with big glasses and an even bigger heart.
At a time when most medical professionals were counseling parents of disabled infants to place them in state run institutions, Marilyn was working with moms to form a loose knit group who cared for those the medical community deemed damaged and irreparable. If you go into a state run institution for the mentally handicapped these days you will find the adult disabled who were turned over to the state as infants or small children.
Like a big barn of discarded souls, these children were placed and for many, forgotten by their parents.
Marilyn thought differently about these special needs babies and she did something about it.
In the face of distraught new mothers who had landed in Holland, rather than Italy, Marilyn was a godsend.
by Carol Turkington
Having a child born with a disability is like planning a trip to Italy, getting of a plane and landing in Holland. "But I don't know anything about Holland!I don't want to stay!" you say, but you do stay.
You go out and buy some new guidebooks, you learn some new phrases, and you meet people you never knew existed. The important thing is that you are not in a filthy, plague infested slum full of pestilence and famine. You are simply in a different place than you had planned. it's slower paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy, but after you catch your breath, you begin to discover that Holland has windmills. Holland has tulips.Holland has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy. They're all bragging about what a great time they had there, and for the rest of your life you will say, "Yes, that's what I had planned." The pain of that will never go away. you have to accept that pain because the loss of that dream is a very significant loss. but if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't go to Italy, you will never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things about Holland.
So, I had landed in Holland nearly two months before I'd planned on landing in Italy. I desperately wished to see the good in Holland---and Marilyn was my guide. Over the next three years, I spent five days a week at Wonderland. She showed me many wonderful things and I learned a lot from her.
I went from being a frightened mom in despair, to someone who could offer help to the new moms coming in behind me with their tiny bundles of uncertain futures.
I joined the board of directors as a parent rep and then later I was elected to the Executive Board of directors and it was my sad and sorry duty to be one of the three people that had to let Marilyn go.
There were many reasons why this had to be--and none of them pleasant memories to me. I'd lost contact with Marilyn for quite some time and I always wanted to find her and apologize for what had happened and for any pain I may have been responsible for causing her.
A month ago I turned the corner in a grocery store and there she was---older, thinner and much more frail than the last time I'd seen her. We immediately hugged and my eyes welled up.
"I've wanted to see you for so long. I wanted you to know how sorry I was for how things ended there"
She looked me in the eye and smiled. She told me not to worry, that what had happened, happened. It was something that had to be and she held no animosity towards me for what had occurred.
Marilyn died Monday. I'm sure she was met on the other side by the numerous children and mothers that she helped over her many years of service. RIP Marilyn. You changed many lives for the better, including my own. Thank you.