Thursday, July 2, 2009

For a Friend

It’s been a long time since I posted. Lots of reasons, but mostly I was just not sure that I wanted to continue to spend what little time I have writing stories. But today I feel compelled to write a very short post on one of my very worst days with Tony. In 2005 Geri and I noticed that Tony was having difficulty with his ears and made an apointment to have then cleaned and checked. So we took him to the ear doctor. Just a routine cleaning. Nothing is routine for Tony. A cleaning means taking him to the hospital to be put to sleep and then have them clean his ear canals. But the appointment was made and we brought him in (yes all the usual reactions with the hospital) and the procedure went well and we took Tony home. Several weeks later, we noticed a lump by Tony’s ear. Back to the ear doctor. He said it was just a reaction to the cleaning. But the lump did not go away, got larger. Back to the ear doctor. Several tests. No answers. It seemed to me that because of Tony’s condition, no one seemed too excited about the whole affair.

We received a call and the doctor asked us to come in. We thought it was just anouther test, but not so. The doctor said the lump was suspicious and we needed to have a biopsy done. More paperwork, more waiting. Finally back to the hospital and the biopsy was completed. More waiting. Finally a call to come back in. When Geri and I arrived, the doctor looked Tony over and then he explained to us that they were sure Tony had cancer. Then he said, “it’s not necessarily a death sentence”. He was cold and uncaring. I’m not sure he thought Tony was worth the trouble. When he said those words, it was like someone had belly punched me. I was scared, hurt, angry, and somewhat mad at my God. It just wasn’t fair. Tony has had more than his share of problems. I promised I would never set foot in that doctors office again.

More hospital visits and more tests. Because of all the paperwork, and Tony’s condition, by the time they had their act together, the cancer had spread to his spleen, stomach and lymph nodes.

Prior to this, I was just not affected by hearing about someone else’s troubles. I never realized the pain that something like this brings. It's gut wrenching. No words can really help. Only my faith that God would see Tony through this kept me from being a basket case. Friends helped. Geri was my rock. Brought true meaning to what God meant when he said He made a help-mate for man.

So why this today? I was in the car driving when I received an email from a friend. A friend who had earlier this week lost her first unborn child, and today was the first time she was able to share it. My heart was broken for her and her husband. If I could, I would take all that pain away. But I can’t. God meant it for a purpose I will never fully understand. But I can, we can, support them, love them and encourage them to move forward with life. You never forget. But you learn and grow.

I learned so much through Tony’s cancer experience. Not that I ever want to go through it again. But it has helped me understand the pain others experience when their day is turned upside down and life seems so difficult.

It also allows me to offer encouragement to help them make it. Our God is able. His word says he knows the plans he has for us. And that He will always be there while we experience them. We love our friends and will be praying that this experience makes them stronger, both as husband and wife, and as Christians.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Life On The Road: Bikes and boos

Well, it has been some time since I have posted. I have my laptop back and am excited to be back writing. A little history is in order. We are now about a year into our marriage, trying to recover from a terrible year financially, when we are blessed with a large contract in North Carolina. To meet the terms of the contract we must open and maintain an office in Charlotte, NC. In addition, Geri and I must be in Charlotte every other week from 9:00 am Monday morning to 5:00 pm on Friday. We started by driving between Michigan and North Carolina every Sunday right after church, (15 hours) then we would spend our week in a modest long stay motel and drive back to Michigan on Saturday morning. It was very trying. Moving our crew in and out, hauling clothes and daily need items as well as all our business supplies back and forth just didn’t cut it.

Earlier I had suggested we look at a park model trailer for our use, but Geri was very clear about NOT wanting a camping lifestyle. She wanted her bed made and her meals cooked in a restaurant. But after three to four weeks of traveling back and forth, she caved. We purchased a 35 foot, single slide trailer and a brand new Suburban to haul it with. Little did we know that this would begin a traveling lifestyle we would continue for almost fifteen years. After trying out several campgrounds, we settled on a spot in a long term campground where we could leave the trailer year round. This proved to be an excellent solution. We stocked the trailer with everything we needed so we could just drive back and forth. We loved it and soon found ourselves just staying in NC and not coming back to Michigan for our off weeks.

Geri and I love to bike and would ride the campground every day while our nanny watched the kids. Life was great. On one of our rides, Geri was telling me about some special three wheel bikes she found advertised and wondered if I thought we could teach Tony and Elaina to ride. We checked it out and made the purchase. We had the bikes shipped to a local bike store for assembly and when they were ready took Tony and Elaina with us to pick them up. Now, we had no idea how this would go, but we were bound and determined to give it a try. Once back in the campground, we started our training. Short little rides. Lots of the mom and dad running along side of the bike trying hard not to get hurt. You never want to forget the fact that the wheels are not lined up. When you stop and the bike keeps going it is so hard on the back side of your leg. Elaina did very well. She caught on in a few days and was ready to ride with us. Tony, well, that proved more difficult. I tried everything I could to get him to pedal. This was difficult because Tony had no desire to learn. Felt like work to him. Tony’s not into work. It became a battle of the wills. I got to the point where I would not let him off until he could make it all around the campsite by himself. He finally gave in and made up his mind to ride the bike. So now we are ready for the first ride around the campground roads.

Dinner’s over. Time for our very first campground ride. Dad’s pretty proud that he has won this battle and ready to show off Tony riding his bike. Off we go. Everything is going well. One little detail I overlooked. People. They were my downfall. Tony has a problem. He can’t see new people without waving. In the campground, you have new people every 75 feet. His other problem is, that if they wave back, he must wave with more passion. So much so that he would let go of the handle bars, take his feet off the pedals, and try to turn and wave. This action in not conducive to bike riding. I would holler at him to put his hands back on the bars and keep peddling. This worked, sort of. If you know campgrounds, you know that everyone hears everything and I don’t have a soft voice. So now we are getting spectators. Tony wants to wave more. About the third time, he gets his foot caught under the pedal and yes, he falls off the bike like a bull in a china shop. Bike is on top of him. He is scraped up from the gravel, blood running down one side of his face. Screaming. One other thing about a campground, when a kid falls off a bike, the spectators come running to help.

This is where the title comes in. I turn around, ride over to him, get off my bike and pull the trike off Tony. I help him up. I straighten out the handlbars and point the bike in the right direction. Tony’s crying and screaming. Geri rides back to make sure Tony is ok. I tell Tony to get back on the bike, my demeanor is relativity harsh. We’re a long way from the trailer and I’m not into pushing two bikes with a screaming kid. Tony has made up his mind he will never get back on his bike. Dad has to force him. Boos. Yes, that’s right they started booing me. What they thought of me could be read in their faces. They were sure Tony was dying and I should carry him home. They have no idea what an actor this kid is. So I get him back on the bike and place both hands on the bars and start him pedaling. All the time I’m hollering at him to keep his hands on the bars and pedal. Geri is headed off with Elaina to get as much distance between us as possible. She’s sure the mob may try and lynch me.

For the remainder of the ride, I stayed very close to Tony and kept him on track. He’s busy crying and making faces. I can still hear the spectators booing me. Once back at the trailer, I cleaned the boy up and put the bikes away. I was happy to be away from the boos.

Now the folks who booed me thought I was too harsh when I made Tony get back on the trike. I don’t. Too many people have fallen without anyone to encourage them to get back up. Too many people miss great opportunities in life because they got hurt once and will never take a chance again. Way too many people never come back to church because someone hurt their feelings. If I had let Tony alone, he may never have gotten back on that trike. I know this is not easy, we would prefer to coddle our kids, make life easy for them. Too many dads have relegated the task of raising their children to their wives. The truth is, life is not easy, not for normal children or for handicapped children. Or adults for that matter. We need our children to be prepared; we need them to know how to push through difficult or painful experiences. They will have them. We have abandoned the God ordained task of raising our children to be responsible, self sufficient, respectful and productive. So even though the spectators booed me, I know it was the best for both of us. Tony learned another life skill and I was blessed for doing my job. Tony still rides his trike. We still have some problems. But now when he hits something, falls off or has some other disaster, he just starts over.

Hope you enjoyed this little episode in my lessons from Tony. The next post will be titled “Life On The Road” a series of our experiences traveling around this great nation in a motorhome.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Early Days, 0 + 0 = 0 Tony's take on MY economy

I debated whether or not to put this post in with “The Early Days” because it is really an ongoing lesson for me. Once again, some back ground is in order. As a young man, I grew up in a very good home, two parents who loved each other and although they were not rich, we lacked for nothing. As with all young men, I became a teenager. I say became because it is a very scary process. You go from being an obedient young man to being all knowing, all powerful, all wise and far, far superior to older folks. You do really stupid things. One of my most stupid, and at the same time, unbeknown to me, one of my best, was to join the Army.

Time line is 1966. Vietnam War. Oh man, I can hardly wait to go off to defend my country. I’m going to show the world. I signed up to be a helicopter repair man, guaranteeing my end destination. Let’s just say that once “in country” my folks became a lot smarter that I ever remembered them. I began to realize I was a lot dumber than I thought.

Most of my experiences proved very painful lessons. But one shaped my life for years after. Poverty. I would exit the mess tent with my military issue steel tray and hand it to one of the many Vietnamese women who were there to clean the trays. One little catch. The way they cleaned the trays was to scrape the remains into smaller cartons of like material. This would then be taken back to the village and divided between their families. Poverty. I made a vow that I would never be poor. No matter what I had to do, I would never scrape garbage for my family.

Most of you know the “rest of the story”. I married and worked. Had three children and worked. Two jobs. But I was not poor. By the worlds standard I had it made. All the toys. Then my life fell apart and when I moved out of my home after twenty-five years, I had nothing but the clothes in my dresser. I slept on the floor of a cheap apartment.

Then I met Geri and started over. I had the same game plan as before and was headed down the same road. I hadn’t learned a thing. But I had a lesson coming, from Tony. He was a stumbling block for me. You see, all his earthly possessions fit into one small toy box, and if there was a fire, he could put everything that really mattered in both front pockets. That would be a whistle, a harmonica, and two tube of lip gloss. He is as excited to get socks for Christmas as any other gift. You could even re-wrap one of his toys and he was happy. All I could think of was bigger and better, Tony was happy with anything. He does not know greed, or lust for things. Now I have this problem. Tony. Every time I think of what I want next, he comes to mind. Every time my mind is off in a brochure for my next big thing, Tony gives me a hug. It’s as if he became a thorn in the flesh.

Over the past few weeks, our pastor has been working thru 1Timouthy 6:6 with us. It says “But godliness with contentment is great gain”. Tony understands this. He is as content to play the game as to win. In his first Special Olympics run, he was last. But he was in heaven! Both sides of the race way were lined with people who would shake his hand and hug him. We wanted him to run…he was happy to meet people. When he bowls, he cheers as much for a gutter ball as a strike. He has no stress, or worries. He will not die from high blood pressure or a heart attack.

The next verse in this chapter, 1Timouthy 6:7 says, "For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out". 0 + 0 = 0. It’s self explanatory. I came in with nothing and then I worked my whole life to accumulate “stuff”. I just never got it. I have rooms, a garage, and a barn, all full of things that require constant care. Maintenance, cleaning, oil changes, mowing, weeding, trimming, waxing and the list goes on and on. I never really owned anything, if I die tomorrow; it all belongs to someone else. I am left with 0.

The truth is we don’t spend enough time shaking hands and getting hugs. Building friendships, not breaking them. We get down in the dumps when our ball is in the gutter, and when we get a strike, it’s because we're great at the game. As I have applied the truths from these verses to my life, I’m slowly learning contentment. Honestly, I’m not there yet. But I do know that on this earth, Tony, a man who is considered by many to be of no great worth, is my GREAT GAIN.

Next time we will leave “The Early Days” and start a new series named “Life On The Road”, bikes and boos. Have a great week.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Early Days, Nightmare at Disney, Geri's test.

Well I'm back with another life story about Tony. Actually it's really about Geri and her test for me, although she will deny any truth to the idea that this was orchestrated by her. To set the stage, we are in Florida with the kids for our first family vacation. It's the second month of our marriage. This will be a "no picture" post.

Now, about a week ago, we watched a movie called The Changeling about a woman whose boy was missing and how the police really messed up the whole ordeal. Prior to going missing, the young boy asked his mother what happened to his dad. Her response was that on the day he was born, a box came in the mail addressed to his dad. The box was labeled "responsibility" and his dad decided not to open it. Now this issue could be a post all by itself. Judging by statistics, this happens a lot today.


Today would be the day I received my box.


We arrive at the park on a beautiful day, very warm and sunny. A delightful day to be sure. We were going to have so much fun. Geri suggests we do the water ride first so we have lots of time to dry off. Sounds good to me so in line we go. You know how this works. You stand in line as the ride empties and refills and you work your way up the serpentine walkway. About half way up, something smells bad. I comment to Geri that someone has a bad "lunch" day. Move a little farther. Bad gets worse. I'm about to make another comment when Geri, with as straight a face as you can have, says, why don't you take Tony to the men's room?


Now folks, I'm a combat veteran, I've seen and done things that would make most folks stomach churn. But the thought that this could be coming from my son froze my heart. I was...speechless. Geri said I think you should go now. I grabbed Tony's hand and headed back down the walkway, past all the folks behind us. Heads would turn as we went by and I could hear them saying "that's bad" and "poor guy. I was in a fog about the whole affair.


By the time we reached the closest men's room, Tony was leaving little puddles behind. It was bad. No, it was beyond my comprehension. I had no idea what awaited me. As we entered the room, all the other men just left....it was that bad. I moved Tony into the handicapped stall and was introduced to another truth. I now know what the ladies mean when they say "men are pigs" If you remember the post where Tony did his little dance in front of the john, well there must have been a lot of dancing going on here as well.


Now mind you, I don't have any cleaning supplies with me so I looked outside the stall and, to my relief, there were paper towel rolls and just not the blow dry things. I used wet towels to clean up the facility and then I started to undress Tony. Now I'm not lying when I say that in my worst nightmare I never imagined what I saw. Tony was covered from his belly button to his shoes (upon removal of the shoes it was even between his toes) front and back. Now mind you, I was trying to figure out how that was possible and at the same time trying to breath. Bad. Just plain bad. About this time I was trying to figure out how to leave Tony and get Geri. I was not a happy camper. I was not into this. This was not what I should have to do.

Then it struck me, this was part of what I had signed up for. Made enlisting in the Army for three years seem easy. So I got more wet paper towels and cleaned Tony up. Amazing, no one else was in the room that prior to this had seen brisk traffic. Someone must be standing outside with a "danger, do not enter sign". Once cleaned, I had Tony sit and I proceeded to wash his clothes, socks and shoes in one of the sinks. I dryed them by wringing them out the best I could and redressed Tony. Now I have a half wet child. I've got to walk him all the way back to the water ride and I just know everyone will be starring. But what else could I do. Off we went. The whole time I am thinking about what I'm going to do to make sure this will never happen again, and yes, a cork did come to mind.


When we finally made it back to where Geri was waiting with the other kids, I saw her "head slightly cocked, half smile and glinty eye" look for the first time. Sort of said "I'm guilty". About the same time my mind clicked into gear and I knew I had been set up. Water ride first, plenty of time to dry. Ya it all made sense. All I could do was stand there and take it all in and remind myself that this was what for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, for better or worse meant, and this was definitely worse!

Well, we went on the ride, we all dried including Tony. We had a ball. When we left the park that night, we proceed directly to a super store to purchase a back pack, stuffed with wet ones, a wash cloth, a towel and plenty of room for a second set of clothes. Oh yes, and a plastic tie bag to store unwashed items. Now I was happy.

As I reflect on this experience, as well as the many just like it over the years, I have begun (I'm not fully there) to understand that getting married, and signing up to care for someone are really one in the same. It includes doing all the things that are fun and exciting that we all love to do, as well as the chores that are not pleasant at all. I've come to understand why Geri wanted to know just how strong my commitment was. Not that she would have loved me less if I had failed. She took care of all Tony's needs long before I came along. But it made a great difference in our marriage. It proved to Geri that I was able to take the position God intended for all men, head of the family. Not to rule over, not as commander, not as a dictator, but as a man who would shoulder his responsibility. It's an idea we need to begin to teach our children, again.

Well that's this story. Come back next week for 0+0=0, Tony's take on the economy

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Early Days, Winning Elaina..."envelopes"

Let's see, I think I left off on Monday morning. We were all at the breakfast table and enjoying breakfast when Geri handed me the lunch money envelope. Now I had been writing Elaina's name and stuffing the lunch money into the envelope for several weeks now. But today a new idea popped in. I have always been a doodler so I thought I might as well make a drawing of the goings' on on the front of the envelope. I left the table and retrieved my colored pencils. I don't remember the first attempt, but I think it was the dollies on the fan, however, that was one that did not survive the trip to school unscathed.

So as I finished my breakfast, I drew. Please keep in mind when reviewing the art work, I only had 10 to 15 minutes to do this. When I finished, I handed the envelope to Elaina and explained what I had drawn and that I would make her a special envelope every day. I got the "look". Can you believe it. I sit down and do a story tell on her envelope and she gives me the "look". Such is life.




Every day thereafter, I sketch a rendition of something that happened the day before, something we did together or a reminder of somewhere we have been. Every day she would take the envelope and head out...but the "looks" began to go away. I even got a laugh now and then and guess what else...Geri liked it. Even made fun comments to send Elaina on her way. It seemed to be working as Elaina started to come around. I didn't realize the full benefits for almost five months.


It was time to head back to school for parent/teacher conferences. I was really looking forward to it as my progress with Tony should really please his teacher. I was not disappointed. The same young lady who told me he could do far more if pushed was just delighted with our progress. My head was somewhat enlarged by her praises. But the best was yet to come.



Upon entering Elaina's room, I was greeted by a large pin up board with envelopes all over it. My envelopes. Seems that her teacher liked the art work and would have Elaina tell the class what each envelope represented. Seemed Elaina really liked that. She was the only kid in the school with a dad who drew pictures on her envelope. She was proud of it. With every day and every envelope, she began to fall in love with her new dad. As her teacher explained all this, I felt really satisfied (actually my head got big). This time my plan was working and as a bonus, Geri loved it too.

Over the next year and half, I kept drawing envelopes, Elaina continued to open up to me. The father/daughter relationship blossomed. Her teacher saved every one that was not too wrinkled, spilled on, or ripped and put them in frames for us. They hang in Elaina's room yet today. They are one of her prized possessions. Right up there with the dollies that do nothing. Along the way, Elaina was able to "dump" her flyswatter friend and her "go everywhere" Dollie. She had a new friend. Dad.


Now I still hassle Elaina. I still push her out of her comfort zone. I refuse to settle for black and white. I make her go into the dreaded "grey" zone. She, in turn, has matured into a fine young lady. She now sings in the choir (bless David's heart, as well as the gals who help her) and has become quite outgoing. I still get the "look" every now and then...but the "stomp on your face" expression is gone. Game over with a winning home run, at last.

I could not write this without having some very sad memories. You see, I have three daughters by a previous marriage. When they were growing up I had "places to go and people to meet". There was no time for "envelopes". In fact, there was no time for anything other that my career and my pleasure. If I had learned earlier what I learned later in life, I probably would not be in a second marriage. I would probably not have such sad memories and a wet pillow so many nights. I probably would have a much better relationship with three of the most beautiful girls in the world whom I love dearly. So, Tammy, Amy and Debbie, if you read this, I'm sorry. I never had the time for "envelopes" for you. I could say I did the best I could, but that would not be true. So just know I'm sorry and I love all three of you.



One more thought. The current worldview of handicapped children. In today's age, we have places that will let you "customize" your children. Tests to determine if your child is "normal". Doctors and politicians that lobby to abort any child that is not. The thought process is that we can eliminate " Downs" via early testing and then abortion in the next five years. How sad. If I tried to write all the wonderful things Elaina has brought to my (ours as well as others) life, I couldn't even begin to tell them all. She helped shape me into the man I have become. Winning Elaina over was a long process, but I learned that she was a special child from God and what she needed was to be loved, made to feel special, be admired, be pushed, be praised. What normal kid doesn't? The next time you see a family with a handicapped child, don't feel sad for them. Maybe you can get introduced to a gift most folks never get to open. I'm so very thankful to God that He gave me a second chance, and envelopes.



That's it for now. Next time I will be back on lessons from Tony with "Nightmare at Disney", Geri's test.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Early Days, Winning Elaina, dollies, cars and dead flies.

Before I begin there is another character trait (Geri says flaw) in me that you should be aware of. I like to stir things up. My dad always told me that if anything sits on the stove for too long, it gets a crust on top and the good smell of what's cookin' can't make it through. So stir it up. Make it smell good or make it stink, but stir it up.


My favorite song at the time was Saturday Morning Confusion. I like noise and chaos. Geri likes peace and quiet. I like to run all over and chase the kids and turn the house upside down. Geri likes peace and quiet. I love lots of loud noise. Geri, peace and quiet. Her favorite meal in a Chinese restaurant is Happy Family. We were made for each other. So in my male cranium, I figured the way to win Elaina would be to tease her into having fun with me. What could be better than having a good time with Dad?


So I formed a plan. I didn't share it with Geri either. No need to as I was sure it would work.

On the first day of the plan, I took the dollies that do nothing and hid them on top of the ceiling fan blades, opposite sides so the fan would not sag. Later that evening, at the perfect time during the movie, I turned the fan on. It moved fairly slow at first due to the added weight but soon picked up enough speed to propel the dollies out into the room. Down to the floor they tumbled.

The dog went nuts trying to get one. Elaina was in shock. Then the "look". Shouting things, friend waving, she rushed over and picked up one and then the other and stomped off to her room. Geri was not amused and I could not stop laughing. Geri reminded me that there may be a special punishment for someone who terrorizes little girls.

So I tried to go and make up with Elaina, but she would have nothing to do with me. So maybe the dollies and the fan were not such a good idea.


In a day or two, I moved on the the cars. Now, remember, she has 220 plus cars. They are lined up in a different way every day. So I just took a few. Placed them around the house in places where they sort of fit. You know, the fire engine by the fireplace, the repair tuck by the broken fan, the ambulance by the medicine cabinet and so on. How could I have known that she had names for each one and counted them every day? And that she would miss them so soon? A hissy fit over a few cars. Geri had to help her find every one. She was still not impressed with my idea. I was determined that it would work and kept at it for the remainder of the week. On Saturday, we were having dinner and the conversation turned to maybe finding a way for the two of us to make peace. Like maybe I would leave her, the cars and her dollies alone. Geri thought this was an excellent idea. Didn't register with me. To prove my point, just before we were finished, a pesky fly was making the rounds at the table. Yes I did it. I grabbed her "friend" and killed the fly.


Oh my cotton, I have never seen a child go into convulsions before. She was up, grabbing the "friend" while hollering for mom to help wash it off and I got a double "look". I would never have dreamed a double "look" was possible. It was very traumatic. Geri was very unhappy. As she helped Elaina wash off dead fly, I heard her telling Elaina we would go to Meijers right after dinner to buy her a new "four pack" of friends. I, of course, loved every minute. After Elaina had left for her bedroom with her clean friend, Geri informed me of the evening plans and that I had better behave and find another way to win Elaina over.


Bottom of the ninth again. No home run. No win. I spent the remainder of the weekend trying just to get back to where I started. No good ideas were forming as to how to start over so I made up my mind to let it lay until Monday and then I would think on it again. Well Monday came and we......oh that's my next post. A long game plan but in the end a home run. I'll tell you how I did it in "The Envelopes". Until then, remember, if your wife ain't happy, there ain't nobody happy.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Early Days.....Fully Dressed

As I started this process, all these memories being brought back to life, I realized that not all my lessons came from Tony. Most did, but some came from his sister Elaina as well. So I am going to post this on Tony and then take a couple of posts on the process of winning over Elaina. OK, so now I am in the process of potty training, shower training and am about to embark on the art of dressing oneself. Of all three process, this one actually went very well. Except for the underwear. We started with the socks because that was the hardest for me to do. I would hold the sock open and make Tony pull it up. Piece of cake. Within a week, he could put on his socks. From there, we moved to the underwear. If I held the pants open, he could pull them up. But when I would just give them to him, he would get them on backwards. That's just not right. So I came up with the idea of showing him the tag and having him put that in back. Bad idea. He would put the tag in front. No matter what I did, tag in front. So we tried a new tactic. I would put the underwater across his legs and make him turn it until he could put his finger into the opening. Then he could grab the edges and put them on. Success! Sort of. You see what I was missing is the fact that he did not care because he had to sit down anyway. It was only important to me. But as a matter of principal, I make him do it anyway. Once we got past that, the t-shirt and pants and shirt all fell into place. He was actually dressing himself within two weeks. This did open up one can of worms, now that he knew how to put on his clothes, he also knew how to change his clothes....sometimes two to three time a day. As my dad says, "ain't life great". In all of this, Tony would cheer and give Hi-Fives whenever he got dressed. He found a new freedom. He even began to pick out his own clothes that he wanted to wear. In my world of "normal" I had taken so much for granted. I couldn't even remember a time when I was thankful just to pick out my own clothes. It also confirmed for me that God put in every one of us the ability to push past "our current condition" and enjoy the excitement of doing something you've never done before. All of my life I have been challenged to push past, do the things they say can't be done. My father, who never made it past the seventh grade, had twenty two patents when he retired. His hand crafted steam engines are museum quality. He used to tell me, you are a child of the God who made everything, ask for what you need and get busy applying your self at it. I realized that Tony was a child of the same God and just needed to be pushed.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Early Days....Clean Man

"The Early Days" represent the first several months of our marriage. So almost all of the posts for the next few weeks will take place in that time period. It was a period of INTENSE, multifaceted training for both of us. Combine that with some time spent trying to win over Elaina, and I had my hands full. Needless to say, it also tested, and streghtened our marriage. Tony and Elaina attended the Ottawa Area Center every day, and like any other school, there were parent teacher days. One of Tony's teachers, a very petite thing, called me aside during during my first such visit and shared some life changing secrets with me. In her opinion, Tony had been "coddled" for way to long. He was, as she put it, a spoiled, manipulative child. She believed that if someone, namely me, worked with Tony, he could be taught how do most all the required daily chores, like showering and dressing. Now the way she put this it was not a suggestion. More like I expect to see changes before me meet again, DAD! So off I went. That night at dinner, I reviewed all this with Geri and she said to go for it. She always gets this little funny half smile when she says that. I told her I would tackle showering first. So later that night we headed for the shower. Once I had Tony undressed and in the shower, I took and put the hair shampoo in his hand and then with my hands started to make him wash his head. No biggie right? Wrong. Tony in his own way understood that I was trying to change his lifestyle and he began to scream like I was cutting off his fingers one by one. I couldn't believe it. In my mind I was thinking Geri would divorce me. But my mind was set, and I was not going to give up. I made Tony put the soap in his hand and then I would take his hand and help him wash. All the time he would be screaming. This process did not take as long as the "pinch and turn training". In less than 30 days Tony was showering himself. Just get his water set set to the right temperature and send him in. What a piece of cake showering him became for me and really good for Tony as he now had learned new skills. It also confirmed what the young lady had told me, Tony was smart enough to learn, and so was I.

In all of this, what really impressed me was my wife. Day after day, listening to Tony scream, she never interfered. She just supported me and let me do what I had determined was best for our son. Brings to mind a Proverbs 31 woman...one who supports her husband. It was response I was not used to and it was an incredible booster to our relationship.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Early Days...Macho Man

I guess there is no better place to start than the first few months of our "getting to know one another". Now, when I married Geri I told her that Tony would be my responsibility and I would care for all his needs (I had NO idea what his needs were but it sounded good). God will bless Geri for her patience with me as she was very selective on the "what and when" as she introduced me to just what that meant. So, when she would say, Randy you need to check Tony out, I always knew I was in for my next lesson. On this particular day, Tony was in the bathroom when she gave me the "check it out" call. Now please understand that my experience in this area was very limited but I figured how hard can it be? When I turned from the hallway into the bathroom I burst out laughing. Tony was standing up in front of the porcelain convenience and he was doing something that resembled the twist. My laughing came to an instant halt as the realization set in that he was spraying everything on both sides of the target area. Now when things like this happen you forget that Tony is handicapped and you react like he was any other person. That means I hollered at him to stop. Ya right. What he did was jump and turn toward me. Now I look like everything on both sides of the convenience. You get the picture. Now I'm not known for being slow, but at time like this, your brain sort of slows down. Fortunately, it came back quick and all my options began to spin like one of those slot machines...to fast to choose and I knew I needed a winner. I settled on this one. Moving forward I pinched off the supply hose. Now you have me and Tony face to face, me shutting of the supply hose and him starting to scream. I slowly turned him around and sat him down and released my grip. Needless to say, the screams brought Geri, and cleaning equipment. Not since my stint in the Army had I been assigned latrine duty. Needless to say, Tony and I would begin a daily routine of visiting the room together, making sure sitting down was the rule of the day. It took about forty five days of constant checking, shutting off the supply tube and turn arounds before Tony really got the idea. It didn't take near that long for me to learn that committing to take care of someone elses needs may carry with it far more than what the mind imagines. It also made me glad that my Father loved me enough to provide a Saviour who would take care of all mine....and He knew all about me, ahead of time.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Did you know?

I'm sorry I missed posting for two days, I was working on some large files and my computer decided enough was enough until I made more room on my HD. But we are back in business now! So to continue on with this, I decided it would be important for you to know some "Do you know facts" about Tony before I actually started sharing the lessons I've learned, so from time to time, you can refer back to these facts to shed additional understanding on the lesson. These are things I did NOT know when I met Tony and many of them I didn't pick up on until after I married Geri and MY training began. So here we go:

1. Tony will get more hugs in his lifetime than 100 average (so called normal) people.

2. If you are a young lady your chances of getting a hug are about 90%

3. If your a well endowed young lady, chances increase to 110%

4. If you appear to like it, you get promoted to the "I never forget" list.

5. In Churches we've visited all over the country, people will recognize and call
Tony by name but do not know Geri or I by name.

6. Tony can't read or write, does not speak well, but has no problem getting
exactly what he wants.

7. Tony can operate any tape player, VCR, DVD and TV you put him in front of.

8. Tony has a very nervous stomach, and at the slightest "I don't want to do
this" can turn the contents into liquid!

9. There is no correlation between the time, or amount, of food he has taken in,
and the amount of liquid he can produce when he has a nervous stomach.

10. NSS (nervous stomach syndrome I call it) overtakes him whenever he: sees
a hospital, goes to an amusement park, rides on an ATV, wants revenge on
Dad for any reason, in the middle of the shopping mall.

11. Because of number 10, I always carry a back pack with enough supplies to
accomplish a complete head to toe "Do-Over".

12. Most of the time, I forget and leave the back pack in the car. It has
always amazed me how creative you can get when you have only the supplies
in the men's room.

13. Tony is very strong.

14. Tony has had cancer but is now in complete remission (Thank you Lord!).

15. Tony has had all his teeth removed.

16. When you don't care if you pee your pants or use the little room, it makes
no difference how you put on your underwear?

17. Tony is my "BUD".

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Introduction

I was 42 years old when I first met Tony. The son of a co-worker who has Rubenstein-taybi syndrome. At that time Tony was 20 years old. Looked like 10. Mental capacity was estimated to be about a 3rd grade level. He communicated with signs, needed all his daily requirements, other than eating, completed by others. He attended a local special needs school and seemed to be quite a happy kid. Tony had a Downs sister, Elaina, and for the most part they did not get along too well. At the time, I had no idea that in just a few short years, I would become Tony's stepfather. I also had no idea of what that meant. I'm not always sure that I have it figured out today. But I am learning. And that's why I want to share what God has taught me about "life" using my son Tony. I want to share stories and real life incidents that have changed my attitude in so many areas. So I invite you to follow along, get a real world look at life with Tony!