Monday, April 30, 2012

Father helps daughter experience high school prom

from the Souix City Journal by Tim Gallagher:

The email began with a teaser. "Good story," it read.

It continued: "Vernon Meyer... has Down Syndrome daughter Corinne... she will probably not marry or be independent ... She is a senior at Sergeant Bluff-Luton High School ..." 
So he did what most people probably wouldn't do. He rented a tux and they got her a dress he took his daughter to prom.

"I think being around all those teenagers probably not the most comfortable moment for a dad ... but he did it for her ... what a great example in fatherhood ... he may not be a war hero or a big-shot executive ... but he is a hero to his daughter ... and a good example to ... men ... to be fathers."

The message led me to Sergeant Bluff on Thursday. I found Vernon and Aileen Meyer sitting at the kitchen table with their oldest child, 18-year-old Corinne, still all smiles, reliving her big night Saturday, her senior prom.

"Dance," she said. "Dress," she said, pointing at the pictures.

"A friend of Corinne's went last year to prom and we thought, 'Wouldn't it be neat for Corinne to experience prom in her senior year?'" Aileen asked.

Aileen and a couple of her friends took Corinne to find a dress recently. I failed to understand the depth of this mother-daughter rite.

"We might not get that whole wedding dress experience that a mother and daughter often share," Aileen said. "So this was kind of our big hurrah for Corinne. And, yes, I suppose, for me as a mom. I'm so grateful I had friends with us who could share in the experience."

Vernon, meantime, headed to Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc. for a black suit and bow tie.

Corinne awoke at 6:30 a.m. each day last week. She'd pop into her parents' bedroom, asking, "Dance? Dance?"

"Not yet," they'd reply. "The dance is coming, but not until Saturday."

The SB-L High School prom played out a few hours after Corinne ran two races in a Special Olympics meet at Sioux Center, Iowa. She placed second in the 50-meter dash, fifth in the 100-meter dash.

The family then "sprinted" home to shower and dress to the nines, as the expression goes. They soon found their place in line waiting for the announcer to introduce this "couple" in the grand march.

"I was more nervous for this than I was for my own senior prom 25 years ago," said Vernon, a 1987 graduate of Lytton, Iowa, High School.

The crowd cheered. Vernon and Corinne stopped several times for pictures while passing sections of the bleachers.

"Corinne is a ham," Vernon explained, saying his daughter wasn't at all nervous about the experience. "Her personality doesn't lend itself to being nervous."

Following the grand march and its related paparazzi, dozens of SB-L High School prom-goers gathered around Corinne to congratulate her on her beautiful dress and inspiring walk with Dad.

"That's all you want as a parent," Vernon said. "You want for any of your kids to be accepted and loved."

While that could have ended the experience on a high, Vernon gave his daughter more. They headed with the group to the Marina Inn across the river in South Sioux City where they dined and danced with the rest of SB-L's prom contingent.

It marked Corinne's first school dance.

They danced for nearly three hours until Corinne's eyes grew heavy. Dad knew the time had come to take his prom princess home.

"This was really just a chance for Corinne to experience her prom," Vernon Meyer said. "I focused on her reaction and I could see it meant a lot to her."

With graduation and an extended learning program coming to help Corinne transition from high school, Vernon Meyer grew reflective.

Studying his daughter's prom photos and the corsage, he said, "I'm so glad we did this. Those moments are valuable and limited."

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