In all that’s been said about The Virus, I have yet to see a discussion of the Social Amnesia it has caused.
In the last eight months, thanks to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, it seems we’ve forgotten everything else.
There is no other news.
No other disease.
No other thing to fear (and if you refuse to fear The Virus, you are marked as a heretic).
Since March, we’ve heard nothing about the other diseases or causes that have become part of the island’s calendar.
April was Autism Awareness Month. Or was it?
May’s Relay for Life was a no-go.
In September, we were not reminded to prevent suicides as we usually are.
And now it’s October, which is the Awareness Month for both Breast Cancer and Down Syndrome.
But there will be no Strides for the Cure 5K and no Family and Friends of Down Syndrome events.
However, I have a child with Down syndrome, so let me remind you that she and her friends exist.
Deborah is now 20, the age I dreaded since she was born.
From the beginning, I wondered what she would be like at 20. What would she be doing?
I have worked much over the years to give Deborah the best chance at a near-normal life. We were doing well until she got an infection at age 12 that developed into Pediatric Acute-Onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (PANS) at age 16. Between 12 and 16, she regressed significantly.
So at 20, when I thought she’d be working or be in a post-high school academic program, she’s struggling to get her words out, and is caught in an obsessive-compulsive world that is closing in on her more each day.
Mind you, we’re fighting this, and I still have hope that soon she will get her smile back and will be truly interested in life again.
But once we succeed with her health problems, we will still face the Cultural Amnesia that affects this island’s young adults with disabilities. As a community, we act as if there are no such young people on Guam.
In all reality, there will be no jobs for Deborah. No one who will really help her find a job. And there will be no place for her to even consider living an independent life.
Unless her mother — and other mothers — fight for it.
But we mothers cannot meet to plan for such things.
Because right now, our kids and their needs don’t exist.