Monday, May 07, 2007

First Loss

Each summer when I was little, my family would rent a cabin in Wisconsin. For me, a highlight of the vacation would be an afternoon of horseback riding. My dad and I would ride double on the horse. I would sit in front of him, leaning on him for support. My dad would hold me tight and keep me stable. I loved it! My horse was always a calm and friendly one. I would pet the soft, smooth fur and talk to my horse by name. I felt safe, while experiencing the up-and-down rhythmical movement of the horse. I especially enjoyed the thrill of the horse galloping. We'd ride a trail that went through the woods, feeling the cool breeze, listening to the chatter of the birds, and smelling the fragrant flowers and pine forest. The woods felt majestic and peaceful, and I felt contented exhilaration on that one hour trail ride.

One summer, when I was about eight years old, I was totally caught off guard when my dad told me he could not safely ride double with me anymore. I was shocked. I couldn't believe it. Why couldn't I do something that the rest of my family could do? Would I be able to go horseback riding when I got older? How could it be that my strong dad could not keep me safe on a horse? What else wouldn't I be able to do? I felt really sad about the loss of horseback riding on summer vacations.

I was at a turning point in my life. For the first time, I realized that my cerebral palsy presented me with some limitations. You might wonder how I made it to eight years old without recognizing this point. I suppose part of the reason had to do with cognitive development. But, I think a large part had to do with my parents’ commitment to do activities that the whole family could do. Also, my same age sisters didn't know any differently either.

There were other times as a child, when I saw able-bodied children doing things I wished that I could do. I had watched kids go off to baseball practice and would have loved to have joined them. Bike riding and rollerblading also looked like a lot of fun.

Although missing out on some activities made me feel down at times, I can't say that, as a child I ever wallowed in sadness. There was just too much life to be lived. There were so many fun things that I did do, like singing in a choir, participating in a theater summer camp, and swimming with an inner tube and lifejacket (I could play a mean game of freeze tag in the freedom of the water). My parents altered a Baby Jogger racing stroller so that we could go on hikes in the woods. I continued to enjoy the cool breeze, the chatter of the birds, and the fragrant smells of the forest.

Description of 1st picture: I'm about 6 years old, sitting with my dad on a brown horse getting ready to go on a trailride into the woods on a beautiful, clear day. I have a smile on my face.
Descripton of 2nd picture: I'm about 10 years old, sitting in a customized 3 wheeled stroller on a hiking path in the woods on a beautiful day. I am smiling. My dad is next to me.


Karen said...

Your parents were quite creative in making the hikes accessible!

Love your blog!

Ruth said...

Enjoyed your post and the pictures too. It's so important to adapt recreation for kids as you point out so well. I think your ability to find activities that you can do and enjoy shows people what approach to take in raising a child with a disability. Thanks David.

Jacqui said...

I've learnt first hand that it is difficult to sometimes adapt things to Moo's needs. And I have also learnt that inspiration usually comes in the middle of the night.

Thank you for sharing your experiences.

Anonymous said...

What a great reflection, David.

I love the positive voice and the ability to focus on what you can do - but that's you!! :)

The pictures were priceless, too!!

xoxo, Lee