Do you believe that we meet the people we need to meet when we need them? I do and yesterday was a perfect expample of this.
Every year during the first week in July, our family heads to Door County with various cousins, uncles, aunts and grandparents for a family reunion. It is always a wonderful week of lake fun, game nights, fireworks, hiking/biking in Peninsula State Park and family bonding. For my son, Andrew, it is always a joyous and wonderful relief to be surrounded by people who understand his disability and love him unconditionally. Every year there is one thing he looks forward to - the go-karts and he always rides with his dad or one of his older cousins in the double carts.
For a child with limited mobility, there is something about the speed and wind blowing on your face and through your hair that is freeing and exhilerating. Because of tightness in his legs due to cerebral palsy, Andrew would have a difficult time controlling the gas and brake pedals. Every year since he has been about 8 years old, Andrew has begged for a chance to drive a cart on his own and every year the answer has been no - you are not ready sweetie.
This year, the go-kart track in Sister Bay was unusually empty and the only patrons were our family. This was the perfect time to test Andrew's drving capabilities. All of Andrew's cousins were driving on the track to cheer him on. My husband, Jan and I drove right behind him like two proud and very nervous mother hens. With an ear to ear smile as wide as that track, Andrew took the turns beautifully and manuevered the course like a pro - until it came time to stop - his legs were so tight from all of the excitement that the only way for him to stop was to slow down and bump/crash into the cars in front of him. There is no way that he would be able to drive the go-karts with a crowd or possibly at all if he could not easily control the brakes - this would be a danger to himself and others.
Andrew was fairly devastated by the revelation that he wasn't quite ready to go-cart safely - it represented the stark reality to him that he really could not do what everyone else can do - it was tough to watch him go through this because he is alot like me in that we kind of see things through rose colored glasses and mostly think positively. I have always impressed upon him a "can-do" spirit and taught him that we can make adaptations so that he can do the things he wants to do in life. That night Andrew ranted and raved at the world and at his wheelchair and at his disability. I hugged him tight and allowed him to grieve and also agreed that this was tough. We finished up like we always do - counting our blessings and talking about all of the things that he can do. His cousins and aunts then basically descended on him to cheer him up and support him with all of the love that they could. That was how we ended our vacation on Friday night and I thought that was the end of that.
Still recovering from our vacation, my husband, Andrew and I decided to go hiking yesterday on a wheelchair accessible trail called Paradise Landing in the Kettle Moraine Forest. It took some back-tracking and getting slightly lost to find the trail, but we did and it even though the paved trail is only 1/2 mile long, we were rewarded with a natural spring to explore and an old spring house built by the Petitt in the 1930's. As we headed back to the car, we saw a man in a wheelchair sitting on the fishing deck talking with a friend. We didn't want to disturb him, but he called us over for introductions. His name is Gary.
Gary talked about living with his disability and how we as parents can help Andrew be ultimately independent. He also talked to Andrew about possibilities and how he pursues his many interests. He talked about adapting to what life hands you and he also talked about the importance of weight lifting and not depending on others - all great stuff coming from someone who knows.
Andrew then told Gary about the go-kart experience and his disapointment in the final outcome and Gary says, "Haven't you ever been to the track in Dousman? They have go-karts with hand controls for the gas and brake pedals!" Excuse me? Hand controls? Seriously, I wanted to cry. Andrew let out a joyous whoop and you can imagine just how excited he was. My husband and I could not believe the timing of this meeting. Unbelievable. In the next few weeks, we will take Andrew to Dousman so that he can go go-karting in carts made just for him. I will let you know how it goes.
Who would think that on the day we needed it most that we would meet the person that we really needed to meet on a little trail in the middle of the Kettle Moraine Forest? If we had not gotten lost - we would have missed him. The point is that we didn't miss him and we were meant to meet Gary.
What are your stories? In dealing with your kid's disabilities - who has popped into your lives in just the right place and just the right time?