Monday, March 26, 2012
Hello from Colorado! Yes! You read it right…we’re on another trip! We left home Friday to attend the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic. Cale had gone to the Summer Sports Clinic and had the opportunity to try out events like surfing, cycling, and kayaking back in September and this time we’re in the snow…well, what’s supposed to be the snow!
On Friday when our flight landed in Aspen, it was sunny and dry! That’s kind of the way it’s continued to be. The snow hill behind our hotel does have snow, but it’s packed and icy from it being so warm. I’ve heard the top is slushy as well. I wouldn’t know how the top is, but Cale does!
But I’ll get to that…
First, it’s super exciting to be here and have this amazing opportunity for Cale. Not only is it challenging him in new ways and a blast at the same time, but it’s so good for me too! Incredible is the word that keeps coming to mind. These events and all they do for these veterans is just incredible, and we get to be a part of it!
When we arrived in Denver, we were greeted with a group of vets that escorted us to a room that was full of goodies for us to munch on and a nice place to relax until our next flight to Aspen. Everyone was so helpful and friendly and it gave Cale some time to play cards and recharge. While there we met up with a group from the Seattle VA and all caught the next flight to Aspen. From Aspen we took a bus ride until we ended up in Snowmass Village, CO. It’s beautiful, but not what we were expecting! I had heard that it was going to be covered in snow and to make sure to back warm clothes, but instead it’s been warm and sunny!
We had some time to chill in our hotel room before heading to dinner. I had mentioned to Cale that we should get ready to meet up with our Seattle group for dinner and when I came out of the bathroom I found him completely undressed and wearing the bathrobe!
Our first night here neither of us slept at all. It was planned for the Seattle group to meet up and take a bus into Aspen for shopping. I was gung ho to go, but Cale was so tired and so was I! I knew we weren’t going to be “shopping” and Cale doesn’t enjoy it one bit in the first place so we just stayed back and rested. At one point Cale woke up and asked where we were. I tried to reply with an excited voice that we were in Colorado, but all he said was, I miss Basil and then rolled over and went back to sleep! He didn’t get up and out of bed until 12! After that we walked into the little area that they call the mall which is full of shopping and restaurants. It’s tiny and cute and this clinic takes over!
After we came out of the restaurant from lunch, Cale started to sing, “Zippity doo dah, Zippity aye, My oh my what a wonderful day Plenty of sunshine coming my way, Zippity doo dah, Zippity aye.” I have NO idea where that came from, but I laughed so hard! When I asked him where it came from he said, “I don’t know. My head?”
Today was the first day of events. Cale had planned and really wanted to try adaptive snowboarding, but yesterday his knee was swollen so we took a trip to the medical room to get it checked out. The doc was super great with him, but couldn’t really do anything because nothing looked out of place. I had some pain meds Cale’s doc had prescribed for knee pain that wouldn’t mess with his seizure meds, so that was the solution. Cale hasn’t complained anymore about it. Actually, the only reason I knew about his knee was because during registration, the noise and commotion was way too much. Cale was starting to tell people to shut up, so I talked with the coach that’s with the Seattle group and we came up with an escape plan instead of waiting in line the entire time. I had grabbed a chair and was taking Cale out in the hallway and he couldn’t sit down his knee hurt so bad! When I lifted his pants his knee was swollen and warm, so off I went to get the team nurse. Yikes! No wonder he was grumpy!
Since the knee had been giving him issues we decided the safest idea would be doing the sit ski. I was actually pretty happy about it because I know he really wants to snowboard and I don’t want to be the one to stand in the way of a goal, but I know in his mind he thinks he can do it like he used to. I feel like the adaptive part of it and the reality of the change has potential to make him really frustrated unlike the sit ski which was something he could succeed in. Wednesday is his next ski day so we’ll see what happens! With the sit ski, he has two instructors that ski down with him and one is teathered to the back of his sit ski to help him with the control. Cale loved it!
Here are some pictures from today, but I know I’ll be getting some better ones from other people soon!
Before he was in the sit ski, I asked if he was excited and he said he was scared! I wasn’t expecting that as a response from him, although I totally get it and it makes complete sense, but he doesn’t too often admit it! I’m so proud of him for doing it; for trying it even though he first said it was dumb because he wanted to snowboard instead, but also because he was so scared and he didn’t let it stop him! Once he was sitting down and getting buckled he was ready though! One of the guys asked if he wanted to go fast like Ricky Bobby and he said, “No! I want to go fast like Dale Earnhardt!” He was ready and the smile wasn’t leaving his face!
These clinics are tough. They take a lot out of him and a ton out of me. For Cale, everything is such a challenge and all the talking, meetings, noise, and unfamiliarity zaps energy out of him. His brain is already working double time while we’re at home and everything is calm and normal. When he’s doing things like this, the miserable side comes out a lot more often than the not-so-miserable side. Of course when Cale is miserable…well, it just drains me! BUT, when the moment comes when he is feeling like a man and like he’s about to conquer the world and that smile spreads across his sweet face, man, that makes all of the hard moments so worth it. I don’t get to see that look like I used to. I don’t get to see Cale truly happy about something like I used to, but getting to come to these clinic lights up his world when he’s doing whatever event is at hand. It.is.the.best.thing.
A few more things to add…
Every morning when Cale wakes up and we’re not at home, he is confused. It takes him some time to figure out where he’s at and what’s going on. Normally, this is when some really funny stuff comes out because he’s just at a funny place with his brain rebooting. This morning one of the first things he asked was, “Where’s England?” I mean, that’s what I’m always wondering about! ;) hehe!
What do you do at a Winter Sports Clinic with no snow?! You bring some in! Ha! No joke! One of the events that we get to do is snowmobiling, but they need snow for it! Apparently they’re bringing in a ton, but there was some talk of it being cancelled. This is the first time ever that I’m praying for a snow storm! We’re not supposed to be getting any, but who controls the weather? I’m going to Him! I just really don’t want to have to miss out on one of our events! They did say if they had to cancel they’d move us to the hot springs, but Cale isn’t going to enjoy that one bit!
As I’ve been walking around and talking with the other participants here, I’m reminded more and more how everyone has a story. There are people of all ages here trying to make something of their life and to enjoy what life they do have, and before their injury; whether it was getting blown up while deployed, getting diagnosed with MS, waking up with a stroke, getting shot at during war, being in a car accident, falling off a building-whatever it may be, before they were injured, they took care of themselves. They walked, ran, jumped, swam, worked, and did most likely whatever they wanted. Now many of them at this clinic are dependent on someone else to take care of them. Someone else to help them daily with simple life skills that I daily take for granted. On top of what they go through, there are so many people that don’t have anyone to love them back. One of the guys here had his injury over 10 years ago and longs desperately to find a woman to love him despite his injury. Woman after woman that he starts a relationship with, he’s left hurt and deflated as she walks away. Another guy just wants to work. His brain injury and speech leaves him in a position to work, but it’s a challenge to find the work that he wants to do. Another guy was an officer in the Army and 6 years after his injury he just longs to be normal again. My heart breaks for the people that have no one to hold them at night and help them through whatever it is they’re facing. Just today we sat with a lady that had a stroke several years ago and she’s alone. She commented on how lucky Cale was to have me to be by his side every day and while she spoke the slurred words, I could feel her pain. This week gives her a reason to keep pushing through and smile.
As I was looking through my profile pictures on Facebook the other night with Cale, I instantly became overwhelmed with thankfulness for him and for how blessed our life is. Yes, it’s so hard some days and yes, I miss how things used to be, but I don’t love him less. I don’t hate our life. I have never felt so blessed in my entire life!
I’ve been reminded multiple times lately how it’s only been a little over two years and how fresh Cale’s injury is. For me, at times, it feels as though it’s been ages since we had a life before brain injury, but reality is that we are still so new into this journey and although we’ll have days that feel like we’re backsliding, we’re only moving forward!
I’ll post as often as I can with all the exciting pictures of Cale’s adventures!
Posted by Kathleen at 1:57 PM