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Monday, November 28, 2011

I marveled at the very intense expression on my nephews face as I looked at the photos of him running in a track meet. With his lips half curled, caught in a snarling grin, I could almost feel the intensity of his attempt to catch up to the runner in front of him. His long sleek limbs, stretched in a paused motion, defining his athletic toned muscles pushing against gravity. I smiled to myself remembering the clumsy toddler he once was. The little boy who waddled with a silly half frown on his large bawled Charlie Brown head, following awkwardly  behind my son Cody, as they played together when they were very young.

Desperately I wanted to be enveloped in my sisters joy as she shared her photos with me. Inside I struggled. Feeling almost embarrassed that I secretly wept looking at his strong young healthy body. As happy as I was for my nephew Blake and his mother at all his athletic achievements, I could not help but quietly mourn the loss I shared with Josiah and Cody as their muscles weakened daily. Damn, I hated Duchenne. What she shared with her son tormented me in the most covert way. I fought hard not to let the adolescence of my nephew remind me of limitations that were now apart of my sons world. I delighted as best I could in sharing with my sister different events that surrounded our lives. While she told me about track meets, Lacrosse games, and Blake learning to drive, I spoke of Dr. appointments, Specialist  and swim therapy.

Why was it, I wondered that the holidays we shared as a family somehow often left me feeling awkward, and somewhat inadequate, as a human. Like somehow, I just did not measure up to the world around me. I was with family that I loved and family that loved me back. Relatives that cherished my sons. Yet, I struggled with being a single mom next to my happily married sisters. I struggled with feelings of helplessness when maneuvering my sons outside our home. Almost alarmingly  to myself, I found myself fighting diligently to hide my overwhelming sense of the loss I felt, watching all of my nephews approach their teen years. Age and achievements went together so well in their ambulatory world. Where age meant loss in the world I shared with my  two younger sons.. It pained me deeply to not be able to completely rejoice inside, for all the glory in my nephew's achievements. I felt a slight disgust with the anguish I tried to bury in me. Somehow, I knew I had to set myself free from the hold I had allowed Duchenne to have on me, once again.

I entered the room where my Josiah and Cody had been playing at my sisters home. We had been visiting for Thanksgiving weekend and she graciously had given up her bedroom for my sons and I to share. There waiting for me was my simple joy to pull me back. Back to the loving world I shared with my sons. Cody had manged to reach for a post-it note with his very limited strength.    Plainly he wrote some X's and O's . He then had managed to scoot in a desk chair on wheels across the room to a near by bureau. Out stretching his arms  he attached it to a photo sitting on my sisters bureau. The photo was of my sisters beloved dog, Angel.  A long haired tailless shihtzoo   that had passed away earlier this past spring. His note brought tears to my sisters eyes when she followed me into the room and saw it. Cody had touched her deeply with his very sweet gesture of love. I stood next to her sharing silently in the realization of the magnitude of effort Cody had put fourth to perform this gesture of love.  He had managed to use limbs  that  barely had any muscle strength to propel against carpet and defy gravity.

My sons may never run in races or play sports. While they watch their cousins strive to be first or the best in sports they will battle in a fight for their life, against a disease that shows no mercy. There cognitive delays will be another constant struggle for them. I will most undoubtedly continue to hit low moments that will rip at my heart and often leave me feeling broken and beaten. But with that I will also be rejoiced in pure amazement at the acts of love my sons will willingly distribute for no reasons other than to express and share love. This Thanksgiving though I am so thankful I have once again been blessed to see beauty in such small acts of kindness.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

When I walked

My Josiah asked me today if I can remember when he walked. So simple and matter of fact, looking at me while I helped him dress, he waited for my response. I stopped and looked down into his beautiful deep brown eyes. Half afraid where this may be headed with memories of him walking starting to flood my mind, I searched his face for something of a hint to what might be coming next. He looked at me with his soft gentle features, patiently waiting for me to answer.

Yes, I did remember when he could walk. Images of his slender young body moving freely, flashed before me. I ached for those days and wondered how often he thought about them. How much was my little boy holding in? It was only a little more than a year ago that he could still take a few short steps independently. Now not even standing was possible. Silently I mourned that loss too. "Yes Sweetie", I told him" I do remember". Looking at me, he said he wished he still could. Its these moments that rip at my already broken heart. Filling me with so much sorrow. Oh how I wished that with every part of my being that too. Hiding my own pain, I held him in my arms letting him recall his ambulatory days.

Josiah spoke some more while I continued to dress him. Ever so often an image of him flashed through my mind while we talked. I pictured him walking on the beach, standing in our new house. Walking at our old house from room to room. I remembered him walking up stairs. Finally he paused and asked if he would ever walk again. There it was, what I feared. Laid out in front of me, so simply put. My heart sunk. All I could offer him was hope. That dreaded four letter word. The word we cling to when there is nothing else. The word that keeps us from giving up.

Today however, I wanted to scream this sucks, its awful, I hate it too. I did not have words of encouragement ready to spill out. I did not feel or see the light at the end of the tunnel. All I knew was while we mourned his loss of mobility, I somehow have to help him move on. Helping him to have hope seemed in may ways to not be enough. Josiah could remember walking and all its glory. He could recall when he was stronger. He knew what he once was able to do. He also knew the pain caused from remembering. The sense of loss he felt now and the constant fear he lives with, knowing he will loose more strength.

Before I could find the right words, my precious son told me it sucked and he hated not being able to walk. My eyes watered, as his eyes filled with tears, letting me know how much this pained him right now. Cradling him in my arms, we cried softly together. The last several months had been hard on the Duchenne community, with the recent passing of 2 fourteen year old boys. It was remarkable that my fourteen year old Josiah had maintained his emotions as long as he had. Today we mourned all our losses. I let Josiah know it was okay to be sad, and that I was, as well as many others, were hurting with him. Hating this disease with him. I wanted him to understand hurting did not make us weaker as humans and sometimes sharing our pain made us stronger. My son needed to know that he had every right to feel what he felt. That did not mean he did not trust in God, or believe in miracles. It did not mean he might not ever get stronger, or that he was giving up on hope. Because, hope would always be there for us when ever we wanted it. He was simply being human, feeling emotions that God allows us to have.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

It was three o'clock and I decided to stand outside to wait in my new hot pink beehive wig. Just as I finished adjusting the three plastic black spiders, that cascaded down the sides, I saw the school bus coming. It did not take long for my Josiah to notice. He immediately lifted his head smiling.

I watched as the bus aid began to unbuckle the tie downs that kept his wheelchair in place. His smile widening as I blew him a kiss. Strapped behind Josiah was my middle son Cody. He was now beaming as he looked out the school bus window at me. It pleased me so much knowing my simple effort could make them so happy. I am sure somewhere else in the world would be a mortified teenager, if upon there ride home from school, stood a mother waiting dressed in biker clad and a hot pink wig. As for my two youngest they simply adored my silly side and encouraged it. Often asking me to do voice overs. My imitations of Marge Simpson could drive my oldest son Zach to leave the room, but my Josiah and Cody would engage in long conversations as I impersonated the blue haired cartoon character Marge.

I hustled the two of them inside the house to discuss the plan to prepare for trick or treating that evening. They were delighted to learn their oldest brother Zach would be joining us dressed as Santa. A few days prior Zach had generously volunteered to accompany us. I welcomed his help immensely. We loved Halloween and I felt determined to make it an enjoyable evening to share with my sons. I could remember past Halloweens when it was just me attempting to get them both up to the neighbors front doors to get treats. Even though both Josiah and Cody had electric wheel chairs to go from house to house Halloween night did not happen easily. We hardly ever encountered a house with out several stairs to the front door. Which had me leaving them alone down by the street or in driveways, waiting while I ran up to the homes explaining my waiting sons below. The homes with accessible side walks leading to their lit entrances did not allow any room for a wheelchair to turn around. Often my sons wheels would find dips in the grass and become stuck, sometimes requiring all my strength to pull them out. Now I beamed, I would have a companion and muscle with me and I did not have to ask for help. It also felt wonderful to not feel like I was burdening anyone. If you have never been at the mercy of the assistance from others you can not even begin to understand, how degrading and helpless it can feel at times.

With dinner done and my nephew George also now joining us we dressed to head out. I quickly found some items to turn him into a pirate, joining Cody's theme as captain Black Beard. I was rather surprised to learn on this chilly day that my 14 year old nephew George came to us from school with out a jacket. As a doting meddling mom I saw that I could take care of that too. However, I could not help but wonder as I assisted my two sons and nephew, how much I handled without giving it a second thought. I had fitted three dogs in costumes, turned Josiah and his chair into Noah and the ark. Dressed Cody and George into pirates along with turning the front of Cody's wheelchair into a pirate ship, and then laid out Zach's Santa suit. With five minutes to spare, I also managed to turn my self into a sort of Jack Sparrow look a like. With my pride in tack cause I was able to do it all, we were ready, dogs and all.

We walked the neighborhood in our little group. Zach and George running up to doors for Josiah and Cody. Me so thankful for the help. On several occasions those answering the doors would come down to where I waited with my boys, complimenting them on their costumes, and admiring the dressed dogs. I can not help to think though, it was my son Zach dressed as Santa who drew people out of there homes. As he captivated those who answered the doors, with out hesitation he directed their attention to his waiting brothers.

It was a good HALLOWEEN for all of us. After George was finally convinced it was time to go home I put my two younger sons to bed. I had some spare time to thank Zach for giving up his night to help me out. Zach and I talked a bit about some of the responses he received from people as he told them he was trick and treating for his bothers. A few people actually apologized because they didn't notice his brothers right away. Zach asked me how was I able to handle it all these years having to explain over and over the condition of his brothers, he told me it was exhausting mentally, and physically, just taking care of them for a few hours. I went to bed that night feeling good that I could still do all that I do and take on extra. After all someone less than half my age had just told me my life exhausted him, I had to laugh to myself, he did not even have to fit in the dating part.

It has been a arduous struggle for me to accept that am I loosing in my capability to lift my son Cody. Somewhere I will undoubtedly hear from someone telling me a ceiling lift is my answer or a hoyer lift. The lift we have, it helps in the home in two rooms, it does not help outside the home. What I am really talking about is much deeper. Whom I hope to reach is the mom or dad who understands this part of loosing yourself. Loosing the physical ability to care for your child. The pride that comes with knowing you can. The will to go that little extra, just to do it on your own. The never ending sacrifices you make because you love your child so much. The hours and hours, spent on finding ways to make it all work for your child. Also, having to live with the fear, that after all this you may just have to go it alone, and because of your love you hold for your child you are willing to accept all of it.