Thursday, July 17, 2014
Walking on Air
When my children were little, speech was so difficult that we developed a language and communication all our own. For particularly tough sounds, we learned sign language to communicate when they were toddlers. As they grew up, we forgot most of the signs but kept a few that we still use from time to time. Every year, with intense speech therapy and surgeries, things got a little better one step at a time.
For 13 years since my first son Zack was born, we have logged more time in hospitals than I can even count. For the first time in five years, this summer we did not have a major surgery that restricted their physical activity for months at a time and put a spoiler on all of the activities that kids, but especially, boys love.
So we took a bold step this summer, and signed them up for sleep away adventure camps, each child -- Del for one week, Luke for two and Zack for three weeks. As I drove away from dropping off Luke and Del in Massachusetts, I did so with my heart in my mouth and tears coming down my face because for the first time in our lives they are separating from us and enjoying life like any other kid. Midweek when the camps posted pictures of Luke and Del who went off to camp first, laughing, hiking and swimming I could not have been happier. Until today.
This past Sunday, after a weekend with my brother's family, I dropped off Zack in Seattle at a camp that will take him hiking, kayaking and swimming in the Northwest. I want so much for my children to know the beauty of the West, the mountains, the air, the sky and everything I grew up with.
On the car ride to the drop off, I asked him if he would give me a sign he was ok in the pictures the camp posted. 'No Mom, I'm not going to do that,' he said. 'Ok, I said (he is 13 after all) but if you change your mind, I'll be looking.' When I boarded the plane to fly home and left my son there, my emotions overwhelmed me and I thought about how important and difficult this moment was for me and Zack. This is no ordinary camp send off. This is a moment I really thought could never, would never come.
To let my son finally feel independent without me translating his speech, interpreting for him. Years of speech therapy, surgery, anxiety all leading to this moment.
Today, I woke up and looked for the first week's pictures. He looks happy and the scenery is gorgeous. And then 10 or so pictures in, it's there, his back is the camera, he's wearing his Yankees cap, his orange shirt and black backpack, and without any of his friends noticing, my sign, our sign, one finger pointed out, that he is ok.
Life is good.