Marta and Mauro: story of a Down’s syndrome weddingby Ilaria Lonigro - 2014.07.22
His daughter's wedding was the first marriage in Italy between two members of the Italian Down's Syndrome Association (AIPD). Luigi is the father of 30-year-old Marta, who tied the knot on 6 July with her fiancée Mauro, who is 40. Both have Down's syndrome, and are now on their honeymoon in southern Italy until September.
“When we were told that Marta had Down's syndrome, I definitely never imagined we would see this day. But we grew with her and we became increasingly convinced that she could achieve a lot in her life and, above all, be a happy person.” Luigi remembers the strong emotions he felt on their wedding day, in the church of San Bonaventura al Palatino in Rome. “At the altar, when it came to taking my arm away from her, I suddenly thought, 'What have we done!' This was partly the understandable apprehension of a father for the future of his disabled child. But the real meaning of it was: 'Look what we've been able to do with Marta!' At that moment I relived all her little great achievements. It was the sweetest feeling.”
The Roman newlyweds work as a receptionist at the Adecco Foundation and for the local health authority. They have been together for 10 years and, thanks to Casa Famiglia Petunia, they have also been able to live together, with other people, since 2012. The decision to marry was thought through. “They had been talking about marriage for years but that day I felt that maybe the time had come, because living together had been a test and had matured them as a couple. But I was also concerned that they didn't fully understand the significance of such a step. In time it became clear that their decision was deeply considered.”
It didn't all go smoothly. “The biggest difficulty was to help them develop their relationship from a dream into a reality, because initially they were emotionally immature.” Their jobs helped. “Not just financially, but work helps to build self-esteem, the feeling of being 'adequate and integrated',” says the bride's father, who wasn't alone in supporting the couple. “The AIPD was really important, first by encouraging and supporting us, then by helping Marta on her path towards being autonomous. The projects run by professor Albertini were equally important; they helped us to become involved as a whole family and enabled us to grow with our daughter. The psychological support that Marta has received since her teenage years has also been important.”
The biggest help for Marta? Luigi has no doubts: “Forcing her to leave home for her first experience of residency. But we have never stopped talking to her about the need to face life seriously and practically.” How does he envisage his daughter's family in future? “On the one hand I look at them and see any family with the typical dynamics of a couple with a great desire to succeed. But they are also two people who will need continuous – if not assistance then at least – supervision. However, Marta and Mauro don't currently have a home of their own, alone or sharing with others; the foundation that operates Casa Petunia was forced to revise the project. It's not easy to find alternatives at affordable prices, in a market that has a diffident attitude to requests for housing by people with disabilities. But they won't get discouraged: my daughter's marriage is a new starting point,” ensures Luigi.
His advice for other parents like him? “Always start with what your children can do and don't get upset about what they can't do. Be open-minded, always push them a step further by giving them support and confidence. They will surprise you.”
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