Thursday, October 11, 2007

Independent Means

A heartening counterpoint to this week's news about plans to remove the womb of Katie Holmes comes from the New York Times in an essay by Jane Bernstein about her daughter, Rachel, who has developmental disabilities and lives in a "community-living arrangement" with two roommates and 24-hour care. Here is an excerpt:

"My daughter Rachel, who is developmentally disabled, lives in a "community-living arrangement" with two roommates and a 24-hour staff. It's only an hour from my house in Pittsburgh, so I stop by about once a week. Rachel, 24, calls me a dozen times a night, but she's unenthusiastic about my visits. My feelings aren't hurt. Even though two years have passed since her move, it's still thrilling to see her happy and relaxed in her town-house apartment. And her roommate Lee Ann loves to see me."

"Often it's hard to know what Rachel thinks or comprehends because woven through her abundant conversation are other people's expressions, gripes and desires. But since adolescence she was very clear about wanting to move out of the house. When asked where she wanted to live, she'd point at me and say, 'Far away from her.' In her 2002 yearbook, students were asked to name their fondest wish. One classmate wanted to walk unassisted; one wanted to to be a rap artist; Rachel wished 'for an apartment all my own.'"

"I run my fingers through her curls, still yearing to feel that she really loves me. But this is enough. It's more than enough to see her in this life that makes sense. This is what happy look like. This is her life."

The full text of Bernstein's essay can be read here. It is titled "Independent Means," and adapted from her new memoir, "Rachel in the World," which will be published this month." Bernstein also wrote about Rachel for the New York Times magazine in 1994.