Friday, May 05, 2006
The Silent Champ
We had just started our evening walk, as we always did, with Dear Son in his Red Flyer wagon and me, pulling him throughout the neighborhood. The wagon, was a gift from Uncle Mike, for Dear Son’s birthday, a few months back. The wagon was perfect for Dear Son, because it had a tall back that supported him, since he couldn’t sit up on his own. There aren’t many toys that do this, so this was a wonderful gift. We were heading towards the Riverwalk, which was a blacktop path that ran along the river, that flowed at the far end of our subdivision. The Riverwalk, was the place were the neighborhood boys would fish on the hot summer days and we would sometime pass them on our daily walks. My neighbor, who lived across the street, decided to join us. It would make the time pass quickly and make it more pleasurable as well.
We started walking and soon I became engrossed in our conversation. My neighbor, was telling the story of her mother who had recently come to live with them, because of her mental health issues, which she had all her life. They had become worse recently when her father died, so she took her mother in to live with them. Dear Son sat quietly in the wagon as I pulled him. He loved our walks as much as I did, and loved even more, getting outside. Every evening, he would scream with glee when I opened the door and the fresh air hit his face. By the time we got to the Riverwalk, he would be all smiles and mellow, enjoying the fresh air. He loved the wagon and tonight was no different. At some point, he would get tired of trying to sit upright and slide down into the wagon and laugh a big belly laugh. Then he might toss his foot over the side, secretly hoping his shoe would fly up into the air and I would make a mad dash to catch it. If it fell on the ground, he would let out a big laugh, as he liked to see things crash to the ground. I would laugh with him, teasing him as I would pick it up, knowing full well, he would repeat this game, several more times on our walk.
We had been walking a while when he began to slide down into the wagon. Tonight, he was trying to pull himself into a sitting position, as he sometimes tried, on his own. He had never been able to do this, in all the years of physical therapy, but it wasn’t because they didn’t work hard with him or that he didn’t try. It just never happened.
We were nearing the end of our walk, when suddenly, Dear Son had managed to pull himself up into a sitting position. It was the first time he had ever done this and I couldn’t believe my eyes. I stopped mid-sentence and applauded Dear Son, gave him some hugs and kisses and told him what a great job he had done. Dear Son was beaming ear to ear, he knew he had done a great job and something really special at that.
We finished our walk just in time for one of the Chicago Bulls Championship games. It was a time when the Bulls were in their heyday and Michael Jordan, #23, was their star. It was an exciting time for all of Chicago, seeing the basketball extraodinaire, in action. The newspapers were full of descriptions describing his extraordinary talent as if he were the only person on the team. I must admit I was in awe of him too, since he was so exciting to watch, especially when he would soar through the air as “Air” Jordan. You couldn’t turn on the television without someone talking about his extraordinary talent, making just average, seem like a bad word. I thought about his talent and was made him a champion. He certainly was beyond ordinary and possessed a special drive to be the best. His work ethic and his talent, were unmatched. I thought about what it meant to be a champion and how his talent was extraordinary, far beyond what most people were capable of and far, far beyond the ordinary. He was a champion. After the games, there would be the press conference where undoubtedly someone would ask him about the game and he would answer their questions, sometimes indulging us all with the glorious details. It was a really exciting time.
And then I thought about Dear Son, where it takes an extraordinary effort to do ordinary things. He too was a champion tonight, but it’s not the kind of thing that you’ll ever read in the paper, no matter how extraordinary it was. It’s not the kind of thing he can talk about, because he doesn’t speak. It’s not the kind of thing I can brag about, because no one cares. Their sons and daughters have done this for years and they checked off that box in the baby book, a long time ago.
But somewhere, out there, are lots of little boys like Dear Son, where it takes a monumental effort to do ordinary things. And yet, after three years of hard work, there is no party, no hoopla, no press conference and certainly no newspaper articles. The effort was the same, if not more extraordinary, but the glory was unmatched.
As the years have passed, I saw too, that these were the good times for Michael Jordan, the pinnacle of his career. One on which he can forever look back and be proud, one of the stellar moments of his career. I wondered if he was replaying those moments tonight as the Bulls play in their playoff game. My mind quickly shifted to Dear Son, who is now bedridden, and I wonder if sometimes, he thinks about the good ole days, where he worked for three years and finally was able to sit up in the wagon like a man, a champion. Extraordinary, for sure. Dear Son, the champ.
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