When Chris was in college, his summer job was to care for his friend, Tim, who has cerebral palsy. Several times throughout the summer Chris and Tim would take trips to fun places like amusement parks or resorts. On these trips, Chris was in charge for caring of Tim in any way needed: eating, getting ready, medication, etc.
Over our relationship I have enjoyed discovering attributes of Chris that came from his time with Tim. Chris wants to go into Pastor Care/Christian Counseling and a key component to that job (and to being a good husband/friend) is to be a good listener. Last year we took Tim out for lunch for the first time since we had moved to NJ. Tim is extremely smart and has several great things to share, but due to his cerebral palsy, his muscle control affects his speaking, meaning he may talk slow or with less clarity. During our lunch there were several times when I could not understand Tim and Chris would translate for me. When we were driving home that night, Chris realized that Tim is one of the reasons he listens well. When working with Tim, he had to listen intently and sometimes repeat back what he heard to clarify the message. This is an important skill that Tim has taught Chris that will help not only in his career, but in every day life.
This fall Tim’s younger brother went off to college, which has been hard for him and his parents. Tim’s mom asked if we would be up for taking Tim on a weekend trip, to cheer Tim up and to give them a little free time. Initially I was like, yes we would love to! But as the trip approached I got nervous. While Chris had a lot of experience caring for Tim, I did not and I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I felt unprepared and the unknown can scare me. As we picked up Tim and started driving up to Rocking Horse Ranch in New York, I continued to contemplate my unpreparedness. But as the weekend went on, my fears were eased and we had a great time! It was a great reminder from God that I should not fear the unknown, but embrace it as it comes.
Rocking Horse Ranch is a family resort that Chris and Tim have both been to before. It was packed with people! While there we participated in the many activities they had available, the main one being horseback riding. On Saturday we all went riding once before lunch and Tim went again after lunch while Chris studied and I read. Afterwards we found a picnic table (because it was gorgeous outside) and we played Ticket to Ride. We played right by the lake, so afterwards Tim went kayaking and Chris and I went paddle boating. Before dinner the boys went swimming and then after dinner we played Ticket to Ride again in the lobby.
Throughout the weekend I think I was most surprised by all the people staring at Tim. While it’s something I should have expected, I didn’t. Adults usually smiled at us and continue on, or offered help when needed, and kids would stare for long periods of time. And I totally get it, especially for kids. Tim is different from them and they are curious. They aren’t being mean or rude, they are just observing. Some parents noticed and would completely turn their kids around so they were facing the opposite direction. Some people would ask questions about Tim, wondering how much he can understand or how he communicates. We had one kid watch us play Ticket to Ride and he would try to help us out, which was really sweet. While I was surprised by this attention, it also gave me a new found compassion for those who interact with the disabled (which at many times would include myself) because they are usually just curious and they don’t know how to act. They aren’t trying to be rude by staring or by asking questions. Instead they are trying to love the person and be better informed. Or they do nothing because they feel uncomfortable and I understand that too.
Sunday morning we did our last ride before leaving the ranch. To be honest, riding a horse was a different experience than I expected. While I knew that horses were big and powerful animals, I wasn’t that nervous to ride them… until I got on one. My first ride on Saturday we did the beginners course where we walked trails in the woods. My horse, Ranger, used to be a running horse, so I don’t think he liked the fact that we were walking. At the beginning the wranglers taught me a few things about riding, like how to sit, how to “control” them, etc. They kept saying, you’re in control, but I did not feel that way. I would pull the reins and my horse either wouldn’t stop completely or he would take after Taylor Swift and shake it off. Sometimes I felt like I was hurting him, but he also wouldn’t stop moving so I had to keep pulling. At two points in the ride Ranger did a complete 180. It happened so fast and freaked me out. I get it. The horse behind him was too close or the girl two behind us was scream crying and freaking him out. I understand that I can pull the reins to stop him, but how to you prevent him from backing up and turning quickly? Eventually on the walk I wouldn’t even let him turn his head to look behind us because I thought he would freak again. So lets just say that I wasn’t that interested in riding again on Sunday. For a girl who likes to be in control, I felt out of control. But I went again, and this time I felt out of control in the opposite way. Sunday morning we did the intermediate ride, which included walking and trotting. My horse, Major, was immediately disobedient to me and the wrangler when he cut off three other horses, wedging us right in the middle of a family, so he could be behind his BFF Butch. So lets just say he was very mad at me when Butch went left on the beginner ride and we went right to the intermediate ride. He literally stopped and started stomping his back hoof at me in protest. I almost gave in and went on the beginner ride because I didn’t really want to do the intermediate ride either, but after some encouragement from the wranglers and some good kicks, we got in the right line. We walked for a little bit and then it was time to trot. Since Major was mad at me he would not trot. I’m flailing my legs, kicking him in the side and I bet he was internally laughing at me. After he walked the whole first trot, we got placed in the back of the line. Over time, the wrangler behind me taught me the proper way to sit and how to get him to trot without looking like an idiot kicking him. So finally he went! And while it was kinda fun, it was also quite painful on my legs and I probably looked really stupid, but I did it!
After the horse riding adventure we ate lunch and then headed home. On the way home we stopped at the Storm King Art Center, which is an outdoor sculpture park. We only had an hour, which is not much time, but we were able to catch the trolley and see most of the park. Overall I’m not an art observer. I can only make it so long in a museum, especially with abstract art that I don’t understand. So while I was uninterested in most of the sculptures, there were some cool ones. Plus the park was beautiful. The leaves were starting to change so it was great to drive around and observe fall.
Overall I had a really great weekend. It was great getting to know Tim better and getting a glimpse into Chris’s past, though I’m sure Tim was better behaved when I was around. I love watching Chris is these settings because I see his love for others and his desire to serve them. It makes me excited that he will be the father to our children and I can’t wait to watch him thrive in that role. Overall, I think I realized that if we have a child with disabilities that we could do it. It would be very hard and different than the future we are imagining, but we could do it. And for all the times it would be hard, there would also be times that it would be extremely rewarding. I’m so thankful for people like Tim that God places in our lives to teach us new things and who reveal to us new ways that God is working in our hearts.