I’m struck by how recently often I feel normal. And how great it feels. Yesterday, we went to a birthday party for a friend of mine turning, ummmm, 30. Until a couple of months ago, I hadn’t seen her in nearly seven years. We saw each other again because she lives near a park that was built especially for kids with special needs to interact with typical kids, and I wanted to see what it was like. We had a great time, as if we never missed a day in our friendship, and her little boy and Sarah and Catherine played like old friends.
Yesterday at the party, we knew no one other than her immediate family. I was a little nervous because entering a situation with a wheelchair can be awkward, to say the least. One of my first memories of a similar situation, we were encouraged to “park Catherine over here where she’ll be out of the way.” I almost left that event.
But this could not have been more different. The invitees embraced us – literally. They hugged Catherine. They kissed her on the cheek. They talked with her like she might actually talk back. Sarah played with other kids and tried to learn badminton and soccer on the lawn as she ran around in her Lily dress. A wonderful British man welcomed Sarah into the game of soccer he was playing with 10-year-old and 4-year-old boys. And while I helped Sarah figure out which direction to kick, I looked up to see four women surrounding Brian and Catherine and talking with him, while he laughed. Shortly after that, two of them walked over to me on the lawn and hugged me and kissed my cheek as if we’d known each other for years. This was our first meeting, and I hope it will not be our last.
All of this made me recall a few other recent “normal” events. We went to dinner Friday night for possibly the first time ever as a family of four. We went to Kyoto, a hibachi steakhouse, that both fascinated and scared Sarah with the fire. We wheeled Catherine right up to the table and she sat there just like anyone else would – not at an angle, not pushed off to the side, but just like anyone else.
We’re recently back from our first family vacation, where we went to San Antonio, TX. I plan to write about that in its own post, but until then, know that the word that pops into my head as I remember it is, “MAGIC.” We rode rides at Sea World – even Catherine got to ride. We went for ice-cream. We got cranky in the heat. We rode on the boats at the Riverwalk. And we had a great time. Just like a normal family.
So this made me think about what is normal? And why do I feel so especially great when it happens? Sure, sometimes we need special treatment because of Catherine’s situation. For example, my friend who had the party had emailed me in advance about tricky parking at their house. She had already thought through our need to park close and that the van ramp exited from the passenger side, and she figured out a way for us to park easily, even though the many other guests had to park further away. Her patio had steps and several men simply picked up Catherine in her wheelchair and carried her up so she could be with the party and not left with a small group in the yard. They did it again when rain threatened and we had to move inside the house. They just up and did it. So, yes, sometimes we do need special treatment.
But sometimes that special response leads to normal. If it gets us to the place where we can just be part of the way anyone else would do something, it feels like Magic to me. It makes me breathe easier. Literally. And my hope expands. My soul lightens. Relationships deepen. When Catherine’s disability ceases to be a problem in any given scenario, I feel normal. But my sort of normal feels really special.
So, maybe feeling normal is one of our family’s special needs.