Ever since I became a mom 13 years ago, I've worried about how my disability affects my family.
I worried when my firstborn, during his toddler years ran away from me while we were walking around the block. He just ran. Into the street. I can't run, but I can do a little hop, skip to gain speed, but still, his chubby little two year old legs were faster than mine. Screaming at him to stop just sent him into a round of giggles. As he ran down the street he turned his head with a willful "catch me if you can" look. I learned to breathe and trust - and hold his hand tight.
I didn't like the attention I received from all the children at the playground in the summertime when my son was young. I wore shorts, never one afraid of exposing my leg, and was the playground magnet for all the kids. My son learned the story of how I lost my leg, not mother to son, but as I told it to the myriad of children wondering "what happened?" I learned to set boundaries.
When my kids were 3 and 6, I developed a fat foot. Blood pooled in my foot making it swell like a little balloon; it was very uncomfortable. I had to sit a lot for a few summers when the heat was extreme instead of jumping in the sprinkler with my kids. I learned to be creative and invented a game we could play. I was the woman at the soda shop and they were the waiters getting me milkshakes and cakes and cookies - all on the other side of the sprinkler. Peals of laughter issued forth as they ran to and fro under the rainbow of water delivering my goodies to me as I sat on my "throne".
More than I care to admit, I've said, "I'm done. I can't do anymore." I've learned to care for my body even when my heart wants to continue.
When I went to Mountain School, an experiential camp in the North Cascades, with my son's class few years ago, I didn't know if I would be able to keep up. I let the teacher know I could help with everything but the hikes. I did hike, in large thanks to my son who was there with me, every step of the way offering a hand as we climbed and descended the hills. I learned to accept the selfless help from my growing son with a full heart.
My husband doesn't have a wife who can casually take a hike with him or ride a bike downtown with him. He's more OK with it than I am.
But over the past few weeks something simple and beautiful has happened. I'm not just taking a walk to increase my stamina. Nearly every day, Mark accompanies me on my walk. Twenty to thirty minutes of uninterrupted time with my husband to catch up on our days. there's something quintessentially romantic about an elderly couple walking hand in hand talking about something or nothing at all. When I walk with Mark this image comes up. I hope I'm setting the stage for being able to take hand-in-hand walks with him when we're old.
Sometimes the kids come walking as well. Walking is kind of like driving in the car. There's not the intensity of sitting across a table talking to each other. Conversation can be casual or in depth. Walking in the dark makes the conversation feel even more intimate. When I walk with my son and daughter I get more in depth answers to the question, "How was your day?" More than just, "Fine." comes. And I love it.
The rewards of my daily walk are rippling out into more areas of life than I expected. Walking with my family, casually, lovingly, is one of the best.