This article was originally given as a speech to a local community group. If it sounds like there aren’t any sicknesses or disabilities involved that is basically the point. Almost 20 years ago I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, the relapsing-remitting kind. I never thought I would be able to do any of these things again…or at all.
The Age of Discovery, is it 4 or is it 50?
I am a software developer…the typical one that you’ve all heard about. You know, the one that works 16 hours a day 6 and a half days a week. And when they have free time they play computer games. The more hardcore developers hide out in their attics creating new computer games! They never really meet or talk to anyone. I was a confirmed bachelor…with no thought of ever having kids.
But then…I found someone and got married 5 years ago. Inherited a great stepson who is now 27, married, and has a 10-month-old daughter. He got married 5 months after his mom and I did and immediately moved to Maryland (to our chagrin!).
My wife and I also have a son who has amazing energy and inquisitiveness. We don’t know where he gets it. Before he was born she also was a software developer.
Sam is 4 now, absorbing all he can about everything. And I have been experiencing more things since I was a kid! Certainly this once confirmed bachelor has done the diaper changes, the feedings, and the baths. But there was more to come with this little guy!
So what is the Age of Discovery? Is it 4? Or is it 50?
From early on Sam has had a love affair with horses. This was a surprise. I spent my early years on a farm doing all the horse things: cleaning stalls, feeding them, exercising them but I stopped when I got older and by the time he discovered them I hadn’t even seen a live one really in almost 30 years. We started out small, riding all the carousels we could find. And yes, I always sat on the one next to him. But then he found live horses and that was it! He goes to all the pony rides. He has even been taking lessons. And dad? They have a Clydesdale at the farm Sam rides at. You know, the really big horses? Apparently I will be riding that one soon.
From the horses, it has been a short jump to street fairs and amusement parks. We go on all the kiddy rides we can. I’m even back on roller coasters…always loved the old wooden ones I rode as a kid! For Father’s Day Sam took me to Canobie Lake Amusement Park in New Hampshire. We were there for almost 7 hours going on as many rides as we could, eating all the pretzels, and hot dogs, and cotton candy and…oh my stomach!
And then there is swimming. Sam has been in the water since he was 6 months old. I gave it up when I was a teenager. This year Sam started insisting that I swim with him. So 3 times a week we swim. We’ve been diving, and splashing, and racing each other across the pool. I’m finding that I still know all the strokes…and muscles that I had forgotten I had!
My mantra had always been, why walk when you can drive! Going to a friend’s house two streets away? Drive! Running down to the corner store? Nah…drive! But when Sam learned how to crawl, we could never catch him!! Now that he knows how to walk, he is always on the go…and so am I! Sam and I were walking around the neighborhood several times a day. We walked down to the local school to do laps around the track. I even went through several pedometers just to find out how much exercise I have been getting. Exercise…dirty word in my old house but then I lived alone for years before getting married.
Uh oh, then Sam and I graduated into major walking…we discovered hiking! You can always find us heading off to one of the walking trails. We will hike for 2-3 hours at a time. We check out the boardwalk that runs through the bog at Ward Hill looking for snakes before climbing up to the fire tower. We particularly like the tumbled down house part way up; Sam always wants to know why the chimney is on its side, and where did the walls go. Sometimes we head out to Weir Hill, following the paths out and around to the back of Stephen’s Pond before climbing to the top of the hill to check out the view…and if we are lucky, a sunset.
Sam loves to meet people whether it’s on our hikes or in town. He is very gregarious and seems to have a goal to meet everyone in Massachusetts. He will walk up to anyone and say “Hi, my name is Sam, and I’m strong, I can lift the world!” Some of you may have met him. Me? I am going to be like him! “Hi, I’m Daddy, I can lift the world!” [Appropriate muscle flexing!]
With my son’s help I have discovered that life is an exciting learning process. Five years ago you would have met a recluse that worked too much. Today, you are meeting someone that likes to have fun!
So what is the Age of Discovery? [Smirk] It’s 4!!! And when I get to be 5 I’ll tell you about everything else I’ve learned!
Now what is the point? If you have a disability, accept that you have it and move on. Someone once told me “there are no problems just issues to be resolved”. Is this all I have done with my son? No, we have been on helicopters and small planes. We have taken on the scariest rides at amusement parks. My son wants to be Steve Irwin, Crocodile Hunter and I will be working with him to reach his goal.
What are YOUR dreams and goals? Are you going to let your disability or disease stop you from reaching them? If you are, at least read “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch. He was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University who died on July 25th, 2008 after battling pancreatic cancer. Even at the end he was still exuberantly working on his goals (one of which was to beat the cancer). We can all hide out and be miserable or we can get out there, accept our “issue” and enjoy life!
I plan on dancing at my son’s wedding, how about you?