Nick and Lindsey Standing at Wedding Alter

Blog Special Needs

Two Years Or Six Months: A Special Needs Couple Finds Love

Lindsey Atwell Picture - October 2012
Lindsey – October 2012

Earlier this year, I asked my thirty-two year old daughter (who has special needs) if she and her boyfriend had any long-term commitment plans?

Lindsey had been adamant about maintaining her single status. She lived an independent life in a one-bedroom apartment less than a mile from our house. She shuffled to and from her job–at times using walking sticks to stabilize her equilibrium.

“Nick and I just like being boyfriend and girlfriend,” Lindsey answered my question. I frowned, disappointed there would be no wedding dress, wedding flowers, wedding music, or wedding pictures. I remembered the day she was born. I held her seven-pound, eight-ounce body in arms still unaware of impending mental challenges; I dreamed about prospective milestones. A wedding day was high on my fantasy list.

At sixteen months of age, Lindsey had a seizure and lost consciousness. Doctors said a febrile seizure escalated quickly. An EEG ruled out epilepsy. Lindsey’s hands started trembling. When she scooped Cheerios, most pieces slid off the spoon. We had her tested again and again. At six, OHSU finally offered a diagnosis: mildly mentally retarded (although I prefer mentally challenged or disabled)—from an unidentifiable syndrome. I was devastated. With that diagnosis, many of the dreams I held for my daughter shattered into jagged pieces, like a smashed plate glass window.

We live in Silverton, Oregon–a quaint community in the Willamette Valley. City Council approved the installation of two stoplights five years ago. Local artists have painted fourteen murals on the exterior walls of building throughout town. The most popular are Norman Rockwell’s, Four Seasons. We greet our neighbors here. We don’t honk our car horns. People look after one another. It’s been the perfect place to raise a daughter who walks with an awkward gait and whose tremors resemble a Parkinson’s patient.

Challenger Little League Team PhotoBack in the 90s, Lindsey met Nick when they played on a Challengers softball team sponsored by Norma Jean at Silverton Flower Shop. Play doesn’t accurately describe the team’s efforts because most of the players threw gloves in the air, looked for four leaf clovers, or chased one another in a game of tag. Yet Norma Jean stood on the sidelines, cheering at the top of her lungs.

Nick is two years older than my daughter. He has disabilities too, but they haven’t prevented him from passing the Oregon driver’s license test. Lindsey thinks that’s cool. “I’ve always liked a man with wheels,” she told me when Nick pulled in the driveway in an oxidized, reddish-colored sedan. They attended Silverton High and were in many of the same special education classes.

For the past seven years, they’ve dated exclusively. In the beginning, Nick drove Lindsey to Walmart or Artic Circle if my daughter paid for the gas and food.

“He has vehicle expenses, Mom,” Lindsey told me, justifying her contribution. Then Nick showed up for some of our family functions; he invited Lindsey to his. Now Nick helps my daughter in and out of his car. He supports her arm when they walk across a parking lot and into a store; he holds her iced coffee so it won’t spill. They like the same kinds of movies and video games. “We both love aminals,” Lindsey said, mispronouncing the word. Lindsey says, “I love him. He’s my man. And he loves me.”

As spring ripened into summer, Lindsey’s mind must have ripened to the idea of marriage. She texted Nick and asked him if he’d marry her. Nick showed the text to his mom—who smiled and told him, “You two sure seem to be in love to me.”

Nick and Lindsey
Nick and Lindsey

On a sunny Friday afternoon in July, Lindsey and Nick came by our house. Lindsey marched into my office with an animated face, shut the door, and said in a loud, little girl voice, “You have to stay in here, Mom. Nick’s havin’ a private conversation with Dad.”

Twenty-five minutes later, no excited voices carried up the stairwell, into the hallway, or my home office. Nick talked about the weather, his car, the way he cooked meat on the grill.

John finally said, “Did you have something you came here to ask me?”

Nick took a deep breath, and blurted, “Can I marry Lindsey?”

Neither John nor I were shocked. For over a month, Lindsey had warned–prefacing each warning with, “Don’t tell anyone. It’s a secret,” that Nick planned to drop by the house for a “very impotant talk.” I chuckled, shaking my head at the mispronunciation. My husband discussed commitment, the responsibilities of marriage, and treating each other kindly, then granted Nick permission to walk Lindsey down the aisle.

That evening, Nick got down on one knee and slipped a gold, heart-shaped engagement ring around my daughter’s slender finger. They decided to get married in two years or six months or two years, “Because we don’t wanna rush into anything,” Lindsey told me, splaying her fingers to show me the delicate diamond ring.

I’d imagined a specific kind of wedding for my daughter: vineyard venue with incredible views, gorgeous wedding gown, bridesmaids, a truckload of flowers, tons of guests, a string quartet, a caterer. But Lindsey and Nick wouldn’t pin down a date. Like the majority of Lindsey and my interactions, my dreams weren’t meshing with hers. Our heads butted. I explained the difference between two years and six months and Lindsey stared at me with a blank look on her face. “We’ve only known each other for twenty years, Mom,” she said, like that explained everything.

On the next visit to Lindsey’s apartment, I walked from room to room, glaring at her empty walls. “What happened to all your pictures, Lindsey?”

“Mom!” Lindsey sounded exasperated. “I’m getting married in two years or six months or two years. I wanna be ready so I packed everything into boxes.”

My body tensed, thinking how unpleasant it would be for her to live in a white, bare-walled apartment for the next seven hundred and thirty days. Lindsey doesn’t grasp the concept of time. It’s part of her disability. She can tell time, arrives places on time, and uses a calendar, but reasoning “length of time” isn’t one of her strengths. John and I have spent hours trying to explain, re-explain, then still ended up in the same place. Lindsey has to be in a receptive mood before a successful conversation can take place. I tried to focus on her giddiness, but instead, I felt irritated with the gloomy surroundings. I fretted some of the treasured items may not have been packed properly. I gritted my teeth and stomped out the door.

A week later, on another visit to her apartment, there was a huge vacant space on the living room carpet where a custom, yellow, floral rocker and ottoman used to sit.

“I sold it to the neighbor lady,” Lindsey explained, a smile spreading across her face. “For $20.” She paused. “Since I’m moving in two years or six months or two years. I don’t need it anymore.” I clenched my teeth tight enough to crack porcelain. Knots of tension bound in my neck and shoulders. We’d paid over two hundred dollars for the two pieces. I lectured my daughter on the value of this furniture. “I asked for $50,” Lindsey said unconcerned. “But the lady only had $20.” I wondered how I’d ever make it two years until the wedding.

But Lindsey and Nick decided they couldn’t wait two years (or even six months for that matter.) They are marrying this Sunday. A small backyard wedding is planned. Invitations have been mailed. A large tent has been set up in case it rains. Lindsey picked out a simple, white satin gown with pearls and tatted lace and capped sleeves.

Glittery Gold Wedding Shoes

Her shoes are gold and glittery. She can’t decide whether to French-braid her hair or wear it down so it cascades over her shoulders. She and Nick have decided not to have attendants.

A few weeks ago, I drove her to Target so she could register for her bridal shower. The registry looks different than many brides-to-be. In addition to a few kitchen gadgets, some bath and kitchen towels, Lindsey registered for cat food and cat liter designed for “multiple cats” since she owns Sally and Cuddles. “It’s what we want,” she said when I questioned these selections. “But we’ll like anything.”

We ordered the wedding flowers from Silverton Flower Shop. Lindsey told Norma Jean that she wanted a bouquet with light pink and dark pink and white roses. “Maybe some lavender, too,” Lindsey said. “Because I like lots of colors.” When we finished ordering, Norma Jean wouldn’t give me a bill. “It’s my gift to Lindsey,” she said. “I want to do her flowers.” My heart flooded with joy, my eyes dampened. Lindsey clapped her hands like a child, thanking Norma Jean over and over.

On October 14th, Lindsey’s dad will walk her down the aisle. Louie Armstrong’s, What A Wonderful World will play from a boom box in the background. And because the bride and groom are enormous Neil Diamond fans, they’ve selected Sweet Caroline to walk back down the aisle, hand-in-hand, after the ceremony. For some reason, it doesn’t bother the couple that the bride’s name is Lindsey Jane. They just hope the audience of family yells, “Bah! Bah! Bah!” and “So good! So good! So good!” at all the appropriate times.

Tomorrow, a long, sought-after dream—adjusted to fit my daughter’s wishes—will come true for my special girl (and for me).

 

Loving Lindsey CoverMy first book, Loving Lindsey: Raising a Daughter with Special Needs will be out September 26, 2017. If you would like to learn more, click here.


Every month, one or two organizations that do great things for people with special needs will be featured here. If you would like to support the developmentally disabled, please check these out.

Albertina Kerr helps children, adults and families in Oregon with mental health challenges and developmental disabilities, empowering them to lead fuller, self-determined lives. They were recently named Oregon’s 2nd most admired non-profit organization. If you would like to learn more about their services, volunteering, or donating, please click on above link.

Special Olympics services 4 million athletes worldwide with developmental disabilities. If you would like to learn more about how you might support this organization, please click on above link.

I share many passions in this world: antiquing, gardening, hiking, traveling, taking amateur photographs, writing, sitting on a white, sandy beach with my husband and sipping a frozen margarita—just to name a few. If you enjoy any of these things too, let's connect! The world is better with friends.

  • Janet

    What a fairy tale story❤blessings to you all tomorrow and in the future❤brings tears to my eyes

    • Thanks Janet. We are looking forward to the big day. Everything is set. I have a feeling that the weather is going to cooperate! Loved your comment.

  • Tracy Harris

    Congratulations to Lindsey & Nick. I am so happy for them both! Rain or shine, it will be a beautiful day!

  • Debbie

    yes, blessings to all. May your day be perfect. And Lindsey, I love the shoes.

  • Mary Kay W

    That is a wonderful story. I can’t wait to hear/ read more.

  • Laura

    I willbe thinking of you guys on this very special day! Congratulations Lindsey I know you will be a beautiful bride!!

  • Courtney

    Very sweet story. Blessings on their marriage.

  • Bonnie McKee

    Many blessings to you all on this very special day! Xoxo

  • Dona DeGroat

    Congratulations to the happy couple– and all their families. Can’t wait to hear more.

  • Wendy Stec

    You have a gift for making my heart glow. Your description of their ceremony and song choices have just made my day. I’ll be thinking of you all and looking forward to seeing pictures.

    • Yay! I love to make your heart glow. It is going to be a special day. Thanks Wendy!

  • Michelle

    This brings me such hope. My daughter Mallorie is very similar to Lindsey and I hope and pray one day she finds her “Nick” God Bless

    • I hope she does too! Thanks for your good wishes Michelle.

  • Mary Estes

    I am so happy for the whole family. What a wonderful story and best wishes to the lovely couple.

    • Thanks Mary!

    • It was a wonderful day Mary. Thanks for reading. I’ll give your best wishes to Lindsey and Nick.

  • Jenny

    This is so amazing! I work at a day program for special needs adults & reading about your daughter warms my heart! She’s so blessed to have you for a mom & im sure youd agree youre blessed to have her for a daughter!

    • You warmed my heart Jenny. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • I think this is the most heart warming story.I pray God gives them many years together.I think she has some wonderful parents to.God Bless you all

    • Teri, it was a wonderful day. Thanks for your kind words. I look forward to your future comments!

  • Dani Zibell-Wolfe

    I cannot imagine a more beautiful or memorable day! Congratulations to Moms & Dads and Nick & Lindsay!
    Alan & Dani

    • Thanks! See you in a week! I’ll pass your congrats onto the bride and groom.

  • Christine Balise

    Congratulations to both of them and I wish them Many Many years of Hapiness ! This story really touched my heart, I have a Mentally Challenged brother that lives with me, he will never marry, never have a relationship, but he does know that he likes girls.. that makes me smile.. he wasn’t supposed to survive past the age of 6, he is now 58 years old.. when he was born the ambilical cord was wrapped around his neck and he was purple, the dr. almost gave up and said, “one last wack, it can’t hurt” and he finally coughed.. but they said the brain woudn’t grow along with his body and he would die.. Our family is forever grateful that the dr’s were wrong..
    Have a beautiful life together Lindsey and Nick !! <3<3

    • Thanks for sharing Christine. Lindsey also had the cord wrapped around her neck, twice. But it sure didn’t seem like that was the culprit for her disability. She rolled over on time, crawled on time, walked on time…even potty trained on time (according to the Dr. Spock guidelines, anyway!) Your brother is fortunate to have your support. Please follow along on future posts–I hope to read more of your comments. And thanks for the good wishes.

  • This is such a beautiful story of love. Thank you for sharing it. It made my smile through joyful tears. I hope everyone sings out Bah bah bah and so good so good today!!!!!

    • The day was perfect! Lindsey and Nick loved every minute. Thanks for your comment Kim.

  • Our wedding anniversary is today!! What a wonderful blessing your girl is!! I love your story. Blessings to your sweet couple.

  • I’m in tears…bawling! I love this! I needed to read this beautiful story! I can so relate. My oldest, Austin, 18. Mentally disabled and has seizures.

    • Michelle, I’m so sorry about Austin and his seizures. My heart goes out to you. Only another mother who has gone through these challenges knows the heartbreak. I hope you will follow along and comment more. Let’s hope Austin finds a life partner (if that is what he (and you) desire.)

  • Carolyn

    Linda, what a beautiful story. Thanks for sharing, you have a gift of writing! Sending blessings to you and your daughter from Canada!

    • Thank you! Your Canadian blessings came across loud and clear. Thanks for reading and following along.

  • Lisa

    What a beautiful story! Best Wishes to the bride and groom and to their families! Wishing you both many years of joyful bliss! Thank you for sharing their story!

    • Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed. The day turned out perfect. The bride and groom were giddy all day long!

  • Marg.

    I am so happy for Lindsay and Nick, I know their wedding day was just perfect for them and I wish them many years of happiness ahead! Yes they will maybe need lots of help and support over time but they have the best gift life can offer, they are in love! Congratulations to the happy couple on this their wedding day!

    • Their wedding was perfect for them. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I really appreciate the support from everyone. You have all made my heart soar!

  • Kim

    This is such a heart warming story.Thank-you for sharing this it really warms your heart so much.By the sounds of this you have a beautiful daughter inside and out.I wish there were more woman like her :)congrats on there special day they sure deserve it 🙂

    • Thanks Kim. My daughter is beautiful inside and out. Today was perfect, but not everyday turns out as exceptional as this one. But I’m grateful for that her wedding day was exactly the way they wanted. Thanks for reading. I really appreciated your kind words.

  • Nic

    I’m squashed up in bed reading your beautiful words. Squashed as my scared daughter is snuggled into bed with us too as she heard ‘noises’ and couldn’t sleep! She’s only 7 and it’s a long way off to her wedding (hopefully!) but I have all those same dreams for her too that she will get to be as lucky as your Lindsey and meet the person of her dreams and be so happy. I hope you all had a truly magical day and that I am as supportive of my daughter as she grows as you have been of yours. She’s lucky to have her Nick but even luckier to have you as her mum. Love to you all from many many miles away…..

    • Thanks so much for reading and commenting. Lindsey’s day was magical. The couple said everything went exactly like they planned and wanted. I’ll be writing more on that later. In the meantime, I appreciate your kind words. Please follow along. I look forward to future comments.

  • Ann

    What a great story! I know it was a very special day for you all!

  • Katrina

    Thank you for sharing

  • I was “pointed” over here from 3Peanuts.
    What a wonderful post and tribute to your daughter. Definitely had to wipe away sweet tears and will listen to both songs in their honor and toasting my special needs cousin.

    • It was a great day. Thanks for your kind words. I truly appreciate them.

  • This is a beautiful love story all the way around. I hope today was an amazing and special day . . . for everyone.

    • It was Kristi! Thanks for reading and leaving a comment. I appreciate everyone’s support. I felt it all day long!

  • This story was so very sweet it brought tears to my eyes! I’m sure the wedding was perfect and beautiful! congratulations!

    • It was! The rain stayed away until after the wedding. I appreciate you reading Hilarie–and commenting. Thanks!

  • I stumbled across a link to this post on twitter and I’m so happy I clicked on it. Congratulations from one Lyndsay Jane to another! Thanks for making me smile today 🙂

    • So glad you smiled. Please share with anyone else that you think would enjoy. Looking forward to future comments Lyndsay Jane!

  • Christine Balise

    Hope it was a beautiful day for them !!

  • Anna

    This is an absolutely beautiful story! Congratulations to Nick & Lindsay from a friend up in Canada! This just made my morning! 🙂

    • Anna, glad you enjoyed. Will pass your congrats onto the happy couple. Please share if you know someone who would enjoy this blog. Love having new readers!

  • Carrie

    That’s the greatest story I’ve heard in a very long time! Lindsey sounds like quite the special – and spirited – young lady, and I smiled and chuckled many times throughout your article. I wish nothing but the very best for her and for Nick! She’s lucky to have you as a mom, too; it’s obvious how much love you have for her. Would love to see some pictures of their special day. I hope it was beautiful and perfect in every way! And I hope everyone sang along to Neil Diamond, too!

    • Carrie: thanks for your sweet comments. Lindsey is spirited; she gives me tons of stories. I will pass on your best wishes to Lindsey and Nick. Please feel free to check out https://www.facebook.com/outoneear for a few pictures that have been posted. More to come later. We all sang along with Neil! Thanks for reading and commenting. I appreciate that. If you’d like to share, please do. Am so tickled this story touched so many hearts.

  • Stephanie

    What a wonderful mother you are, it truly is hard to let our children do everything their way(even when they are on their own) I loved reading about the wedding…just so touching!!! I will follow your blog and so look forward to hearing all about Lindsey and Nick. Congratulations to the newlyweds (-:

    • Stephanie: Thanks for your comments. I wish I could say I am a wonderful mother, but that hasn’t always been the case. My daughter and I have clashed much of our lives. (I wish it were different, but it is our reality.) Anyway, there are good days and there are bad ones. Yesterday was a fantastic day. Thank you for your good wishes. Please feel free to share the blog link with any friends or family that may enjoy too. You can also check out my OUT ONE EAR facebook page if you are interested. https://www.facebook.com/outoneear
      I’d love for you to follow along. Looking forward to your future comments.

  • Dearest Linda, “Mother-in-Law”:
    Congratulations to you and John and this sweet couple. Can’t wait to see the wedding pictures. The gold shoes are dynamite!
    Love,
    Jo Ann

    • Thanks Jo Ann. I’m posting one wedding picture on Facebook now. Check it out.

  • Pingback: Out One Ear | CTWorkingMoms()

  • I loved this post so much and feel such joy for your family. I linked to it from my site for this week’s Special Needs Tuesday: http://ctworkingmoms.com/2012/10/16/out-one-ear/ Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Thanks so much for spreading the word. I really feel supported by everyone, and am grateful.

  • Congratulations!! Beautiful story, thank you for sharing. Wishing them health, happiness and a lifetime of love.

    • Thank you Chantai. I’ll share your good wishes with the happy couple.

  • What a lovely post…may I link to it from my page?

    I’m so glad that the day went well.

    • Yes Sarah, please link. I’d love for this story to be shared. Thanks for reading.

  • Lauren P

    This is just so awesome Linda. Tara sent me pictures throughout the day from Mike. So happy everything worked out the way they wanted. Please send me Lindseys address so I am able to send some much needed cat food 🙂

    LOVE LAUREN

    • Lauren, thanks for reading (and commenting!) And feel free to share this story on your facebook page, if you like. Trying to get the word out and spread the good cheer. I will send you Lindsey’s address through a private message on FB. Glad you got to see pictures. She was an incredibly beautiful (and poised) bride. So very proud of her. Thanks again for your sweet comments.

  • Lynn

    Beautiful love story Thanks for sharing Congratulations to your whole family, 🙂

  • Peggy

    Wedding dress, wedding flowers, wedding music and wedding pictures! I am glad you did not have to wait two years and six months!!!! Absolutely beautiful wedding…… She was glowing

  • As a mom to a four-year old little girl with a disability, this post just gave me goosebumps. I hope my girl finds her Nick someday.

    • I hope so, too. Didn’t know if it would happen for Lindsey, but am grateful that it did. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.

  • Allison

    This story brings tears of joy to my eyes!!! Congratulations!!!

  • Pingback: Valentine’s For A Special Needs Couple | Out One Ear()

  • I saw the wonderful story on TV this evening. Having a daughter myself with a disability. I had tears in my eyes for these two wonderful people. Proud of them and YES there are good people in the world! Happy Valentines day to you both!!!

  • That is one of the most beautiful stories I’ve ever read. I am old (okay, middle aged) and cynical and I’m sitting here while I should be getting ready for work with tears rolling down my face. Thank you for writing this. And thank you for Lindsey, one of your gifts to the world.

  • Pingback: Valentines Day Special | specialolympicslouisiana()

  • Pingback: A Dad Who Didn’t Have To Be: Raising A Step Child | Out One Ear()

  • Monica

    This is an AMAZING story!! Please check out the page I created for my special needs sister and her boyfriend!

    http://www.facebook.com/soniaandsam

    • I’ve checked it out and will even go one step further and like your page. Please feel free to check out my FB page at Out One Ear and like it too. So glad we found each other Monica!

      • Monica

        Me too! Thank you so much for sharing their story, you have truly been a blessing to us all 🙂

        • I’m so happy. This whole experience has warmed my heart. Can’t wait for the wedding and all the tales you will tell!

    • Glad you enjoyed, Monica. Anyone who likes a good love story, you can also read about Sonia and Sam: http://outoneear.com/sonia-and-sam-the-story-behind-our-love-is-as-real-as-yours/

  • Pingback: Sonia And Sam: The Story Behind “Our Love Is The Same As Yours” | Out One Ear()

  • bdnewell

    I absolutely love this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Crying……

    • I’m glad you loved it. Thank you so much for reading. As you can tell, I love, love stories. And my daughter’s is extra special. At least to me. Thanks again for taking the time to visit. Glad you are supporting Sonia and Sam. I want their day to be as special as Lindsey’s and Nick’s.

  • bdnewell

    Where can I see pictures from her wedding? And your Sonia and Sam’s wedding blog is now re-posted on my blog at http://www.cakesandcorks.com on the Cake Bites blog, complete with all links. (And I’m getting ready to plan a wedding for our daughter, too! I have a little time though, not til 2015!)

    • Awesome. I will go and check it out. Here is the link to pictures of Lindsey and Nick’s wedding. We did not have a professional photographer, but I think the album turned out great. http://outoneear.com/a-couple-with-special-needs-gets-married/ I bet your daughter’s wedding will be fantastic. Before the link was posted, I checked out your site and you do amazing cakes! I wish I could create something that beautiful.

      • bdnewell

        Thanks for that compliment! I looked at the pictures! The album turned out great! What a beautiful wedding! I hope they have all the happiness! I just went and liked your Facebook page as well. You can also see my two businesses on FB…The Beaded Cork and Cake-A-Bye Baby. I can’t wait to follow more of your writings on your blog.

        • Awww. Thanks. I will make sure to like your pages also. The more we can familiarize our friends with others, the better. 🙂 Thanks again for dropping by to read and for your kind words. My manuscript is being considered by a small press now. I can’t wait. But am cautiously optimistic that it will happen.

          • bdnewell

            Good luck with it! Be sure to let me know. I can’t wait to read it! I’m about half thru doing a book about dealing with the loss of a parent (my mom). Maybe I’ll contact the publisher you’re using when I’m done.

  • Pingback: When There’s A Will, There’s A Way: A Special Couple Makes Their Wish A Reality | Out One Ear()

  • Pingback: Lindsey and Nick Give Marriage Advice | OutOneEarOutOneEar()

  • The Pink Roller Coaster

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — you sure know how to tell a beautiful story, Linda. 🙂
    -Brigid

    • Thanks so much Brigid. At first, I thought this comment was for the post I wrote on Friday. But it doesn’t matter. So glad you found an older post to check out. Have a great week.

  • Pingback: A Couple With Special Needs: In Sickness And In Health | OutOneEar()

  • Pingback: Special Couple Says, “I’d Marry You All Over Again” | OutOneEar()

  • Pingback: Special Needs: Life Event Causes Pain In Neck | OutOneEar()

  • Pingback: When Love Ends For A Couple With Special Needs | OutOneEar()