There are few loves we experience in our lives like caring for a family member who experiences a special need. The transformation from disability to ability and back again is miraculous and not well understood unless experienced.
A parent can turn the most challenging day into a day full of love, smiles, and small or outstanding achievements. So many parents like me melt like chocolate from the warmth of a dear one’s smile, a tender hug, fist bump, or high five. Even our roughest, upside-down day can change into a day of extravagant gratitude.
When parenting and caregiving seem complicated, overwhelming, and often crushing, a whisk of love and perseverance can help us navigate the well-intended illogical educational/rehabilitation systems we must work with to get the help are meant for our family members and when the unexpected happens.
The Unexpected Gift
Case in point. Mikelle and I had several setbacks over the holidays. Two family members were briefly hospitalized with non-COVID concerns. One with a short-term crisis quickly resolved, the other, not so much. While not catastrophic, enduing pain and spinal collapse haunt this family member who prefers not to be named.
Both family members asked for and received support from us in their recovery.
Then, the old reliable green wheelchair van with less than 100,000 miles was totaled on Christmas Day while parked in front of Grandma’s house. The loud crashing noise interrupts our simplified day of pumpkin pie and presents replaced by sheriff’s vehicles, handcuffs, tow trucks, leaving us scratching our heads, wondering how we are getting home now.
Fortunately, Mikelle used her manual chair because of the stairs at Grandma’s house. Her brother responded to the photos we texted him, “I will come to get you.” As soon as we are done with the police report and the tow truck.”
Sounds great, right? Except, he had a mild case of COVID. We took the risk, masked up, and climbed in the new blue 4x 4 truck.
After posting pictures of Mikelle’s pathetic van with its left rear tire/wheel laying pictures on FB, one of our friends with an accessible van offered to chauffeur us home. Very kind offer—especially on Christmas Day. However, Mikelle’s brother was already on his way.
Circling back to how a parent can turn a bad day into an excellent day. The thought raced through my mind, “What do I tell Mikelle?”
Being Positive Pays Off
Her van is her freedom. Accessible vans are not easy to find, especially if you are not getting a new one. Insurance often underestimates the value. Right now, I didn’t even know if our drunk driver had insurance. My family was verging on the dramatic “this is tragic”response.
What mattered right now was how I approached the news with Mikelle. While it may seem difficult, I chose to present Mikelle with a present. After all, it was Christmas Day. When she saw me come up the stairs, I saw her eyes widen with worry. Got to stop this in its tracks—right no, I thought. My family prepared to see Mikelle’s anguish anticipating my announcement included, “Your van is totaled. I am so sorry.”
“Guess what? You are getting a new van for Christmas! I followed up with, “You might have to wait until Valentine’s Day to get it.
On February 2, 2022, I pulled into the parking lot next to her condo just after a six-inch snowstorm had cleared. Mikelle and Liz looked through the glass door expectantly. Mikelle started to laugh, and we promptly boarded her in her shining silver Toyota Sienna van with side windows that roll down, a ramp that comes out of the floor instead of the old folding kind, heated seats for the driver. It was a short ride to her favorite coffee shop, but it was a ride full of smiles that went a mile.