As I was holding the video camera, I couldn’t help but think about Adolf Hitler. Granted, when watching your daughter perform at her first dance recital, it’s probably not the first thing that pops into the minds of most dads. But there was Cayla, wearing her fluffy little tutu, and it was time for her to dance. About 70 years ago, Adolf Hitler believed anyone with a handicap was useless. In fact, he felt so strongly about it he developed an entire program designed to exterminate them.
Everyone learns about the horrors of the Holocaust in school, but not everyone learns about T4, Hitler’s plan to better purify his master race by eliminating the “undesirables.” Under orders from Hitler, Nazi doctors killed hundreds of their own people because they could contribute nothing positive to the Third Reich. Wastes of space.
One of Hitler’s undesirables was getting ready to dance, and I had no idea what to expect from her. I hit record on the video camera as the music started and aimed at my little girl, out there in front of everybody. In sports terms, we’d call her a “gamer.” She absolutely knocked it out of the park. Oh, it was far from perfect. But the little girl was trying so hard to get it right. She was really taking this seriously and was so focused on getting every move in. I was surprised by how quickly my emotions were stirred. Ten seconds in and I had a lump in my throat. A couple spin moves later and my eyes were welling up with tears. Just keep the camera steady. I was partly smiling and partly trying not to make it too obvious that I was crying at the same time.
When we got the official word that our baby had Down syndrome, we wept together. In that reaction, we voiced silently through shared sobs our realization (or so we thought!) that any dreams and hopes we had for our child were lost. You could probably even say that in that moment our view about Cayla and her life and Hitler’s views about Germany’s handicapped weren’t so far apart. In our short-sightedness, we didn’t have much hope. There was pain. Despair. Even some anger. While watching Cayla, I thought of German parents handing their handicapped children over to be placed on a Nazi bus knowing they would never come back. This may just be a proud dad talking tough from behind a computer screen, but right now I’m thinking the Nazis would have to pry Cayla away from my cold, dead hands if they wanted her.
Yeah, our journey has been difficult with her. But we’re so excited about what Cayla is going to accomplish with her life. A successful dance recital is just the tip of the iceberg. Here’s to many more recitals that Hitler would frown upon.