Ann and her father, Tony, walked together down to the subway platform. They were on their way to the puppet show presentation at the theatre. At sixteen, one might have thought that Ann was too old for such things.
However, taking one look at her face, although attractive, showed clear signs of a developmental disability, especially in her eyes. And when speaking with her, it was also clear she related to others as a much younger child. But she loved puppet shows. And her Father loved taking her whenever one was playing.
As they walked through the subway, people stared. Most gave quick glances. Others weren’t so polite. Some stared for long period of time and did very little to hide their discomfort. Although challenged emotionally, Ann had grown to be very self-conscious. And she hated the feeling of being an embarrassment to those she loved.
“This way Princess. This is our stop.” Tony was always focused when with his daughter. To him, she was his precious angel.
“Okay Daddy.” She stayed close, never letting go of his hand. The idea of being lost made her heart pound with fright.
As they left the subway and emerged on the street, the sun was shining brightly. Its rays stretched across Ann’s face. She closed her eyes for a moment and smiled. As they walked down the street, there were more stares. The glances were quick since everyone was moving. But Ann felt them nonetheless.
She had become very skilled at being self-conscious. Even without the teasing so prevalent in her younger days. She was good at sensing a world where she wasn’t welcomed because of her uniqueness. That’s how her father referred to her. He refused to embrace the idea of Ann having a disability. He was emphatic that she was special and got in anyone’s face that made her feel otherwise.
They arrived at the theatre and took their seats. As they did, people began to lean away from Ann. The auditorium was filled with children’s laughter. But when Ann laughed, especially loudly, she felt the discomfort in every adult around her. Except in Tony, he would just look at her and smile. The love in his heart shone like beams through his eyes. He was with his Princess. He let her know how special he felt being out with her.
Yet the stares still bothered Ann, although she tried her best to hide it. As the puppet show ended, everyone stood and applauded. Yet when Ann did, she was clumsy and awkward and it drew attention. She sensed it and calmed her reactions. She looked up at her father.
“I’m sorry Daddy.”
Tony smiled, “For what Princess?”
“People are staring ‘cause of me. I’m ‘barrassin you.”
“Honey, half of that is true. People do stare. But the last part can never happen.”
“Never? I never ‘barrass you Daddy?”
“Well, I’ll admit, the time you told all the guys at my office how I look in my pineapple print pajamas did make me blush a little.”
Ann snickered as she remembered that moment.
“But Honey, why would I ever be embarrassed? I’m with the most wonderful Princess in the world. The fact that you exist thrills my heart. Being able to spend time with you, like this, just thrills me all the more.”
Ann smiled as a tear began to travel down her face. She felt so loved and adored when she was with her father. She couldn’t imagine anyone loving her more.
“Thank you Daddy! I just wish I wasn’t like this.”
“Sweetheart, always remember something. Wanting to be a better you is fine. But don’t spend one moment of your life feeling you need to change just because others are uncomfortable. Improve yourself? Sure. Grow or mature in different ways? Go for it. But change just because other people have issues? That’s no way to live.
Ann was riveted on her father. She wasn’t sure she understood everything. But one thing was clear. Her Daddy loved her just as she was. And that made everything okay.
“Daddy, I love being your Princess.”
“Good! Because I’d hate to think you didn’t like being something you will always be.”
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