shattered dreams…

When I was a little kid growing up in Grand Rapids, my parents got their first set of the World Book Encyclopedia and I was hooked. I dove into them and explored news worlds as I read about other areas of the world and about science. But when I read the section on space, I was hooked and a dream was born. I read about the men who went to the moon, who built amazing rockets and most importantly, were building a whole new incredible machine, the Space Shuttle. I read everything I could about it and my first dream was born inside of my heart. I still remember sitting in my elementary gymnasium on April 12, 1981, sitting glued in front of a small TV as I watched Captains John Young and Dick Crippen pilot the Shuttle Columbia into space. I wanted to be an astronaut, like my hero Captain Young. Through elementary and middle school, being an astronaut was my life’s mission. But then on January 28, 1986, I watched the Shuttle Challenger explode in mid-air and my first dream was shattered.

CHALLENGER EXPLOSION

But that same year, the movie Top Gun came out and a new dream was born in the ruins of my astronaut fantasies and that was to become a pilot. Living near the Air Force Academy, it was natural that I soon dreamt of attending the Academy, tossing my cap into the air at graduation and flying a Mach 2 fighter jet. I was going to be the next Maverick and the country’s next Top Gun (despite the technicality that topgun is a Navy school, not an Air Force program). I remember visiting my cousin Mike at NAS Fallon, where he was stationed, walking around the naval fighters he worked on and watching them scream through the air over his house. I would listen to his stories of serving on the USS Enterprise and I would imagine myself flying off the deck of ‘The Big E.” But this dream was crushed my senior year when my knees started to go bad and my eye sight was less than 20/20. Despite trying to morph my dream into one of being a commercial airline pilot, or an Alaskan bush pilot, my dream of flying soon took its final gasp when financial realities kept me from leaving Colorado to attend a good flight school. Another dream was dead.

I soon learned a lesson that would dramatically affect the next twenty years of my life: Don’t Dream. I learned that broken dreams hurt deeply and I soon learned to live my life by playing it safe and keeping my expectations low so they could be easily attained. I went to college and chose the easiest program that I could, making sure I would not fail by overreaching. But then I dropped out of college when I got my first “real job.” My new life philosophy would dramatically influence the next ten years of my life, as I avoided asking amazing girls out, passed on incredible life opportunities and created a very organized, structured life of safety and predictability. But then one of my coworkers coincidentally moved into the same apartment building I lived in and we started to hang out. Soon we were best friends and were spending every evening and every weekend together….and soon, my frozen heart was thawed to the fact that I loved this girl and did not want to live my life without her. Brian-Pete_Outside2aa - Version 2So, in 2002, we were married and my long-buried dream of finding my lifelong love was realized. One of my dreams actually did come true! A year-and-a-half later, another long-dead dream came true when my daughter Abbie was placed into my arms and I became a daddy of a little princess. Two years later, my dream of having a son came true.

My heart began to dream again, but this time they were small, safe dreams.

But on August 29, 2013, I faced a new kind of shattered dream that completely changed everything when I heard the words “I am sorry, but your son has Down Syndrome.” Ever since finding out that we were having our fourth child, I like every parent dreamed of what my child would do when he grew up. Would he become President? Would he change the world? Would be do something amazing? But in that moment, as I heard the words Down Syndrome, those dreams of a “perfect child” died and it hurt worse than all of those other dreams combined. I hurt for my baby boy but I also hurt for myself. But unlike those dreams of old, which I could leave behind and move on from, this crushed dream would stay with me….possibly for the rest of my life. This dream was a living person, not just a concept or idea. His name was Timothy David Kuiper and he is my boy.

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This past weekend, our family participated in our first Down Syndrome Buddy Walk, where DS-affected families come together to walk to raise money for DS research. The crowd that showed up was huge and in it I faced my crushed dream in a real way. There I saw DS kids who you wouldn’t even know had the extra chromosome while others who were severely handicapped. I saw the whole breadth of Down Syndrome and I do not know where my baby boy will fall along this range. Will he be able to live a deep, rich life? Or will he be dependent on me for his entire life, barely able to communicate or do anything for himself? If I am honest, it shook me and scared me a little. But, for the first time in my adult life, I refuse to protect my heart from the potential of another broken dream. I am going to dream BIG for my Tiny Tim. I am going to expect greatness from my boy and will stand beside him every step of the way. I will not distance myself from potential pain, but will live life open and honest. Because he’s not a dream, he’s my son.

(This post was originally posted on the Dad Matters blog page)

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~ by kuiperactive on September 9, 2014.

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