(Pic Source: luxirare.com)
The inspirational tale of Team Hoyt came past me again recently. For those disinclined to click the link, it shares the incredible story of father, Dick, disabled son, Rick, and the thousand plus marathons / triathlons they have performed as one, dad towing and wheeling and pushing his paralyzed boy all the way. Their thirty-five year odyssey is replete with details to make the heart swell and the eyes tear up, but this one provided particular pause for me:
With $5,000 in 1972 and a skilled group of engineers at Tufts University, an interactive computer was built for Rick. This computer consisted of a cursor being used to highlight every letter of the alphabet. Once the letter Rick wanted was highlighted, he was able to select it by just a simple tap with his head against a head piece attached to his wheelchair. When the computer was originally first brought home, Rick surprised everyone with his first words. Instead of saying, “Hi, Mom,” or “Hi, Dad,” Rick’s first “spoken” words were: “Go, Bruins!” The Boston Bruins were in the Stanley Cup finals that season. It was clear from that moment on, that Rick loved sports and followed the game just like anyone else.
That pivotal moment of communication breakthrough must have been like a glorious dawn; the perennial night finally receding as the sun climbs over the horizon, never to set again on the Hoyt family. I can only imagine how good it felt to see that light.
I can only imagine.
As revealed in the group reading notes of Kindling, I am the proud father of a disabled child. Myself and my beautiful wife are yet to have a comparable daybreak with our autism-diagnosed son. We remain in the dark. Actually, that’s not true – there are fireflies. Lots of them. Darting and buzzing and flickering. Elusive, but within reach. We grasp as many as we can, one at a time. A single firefly never has the capacity to illuminate the sky, but it always possesses more than enough power to brighten our path.
I caught one last weekend. My son enjoys a red exercise ball we have in the house; he often performs a rolling/bouncing/leaping floor routine that is, in itself, a captured firefly we adore. Last Sunday, he ditched the freestyle gymnastics for a different activity: sending the ball careering down the second-floor staircase. To make it a two-man game (and to limit collateral damage to the house), I got him to agree to terms: he would stand at the bottom of the stair – an eleven year old Indiana Jones in the path of the giant orb bearing down – snaffle the ball with his sweet, soft, wicketkeeper-like hands, then return it to me at the top. He loved our simple exchange, catching and laughing and celebrating and stair-climbing and announcing “ready…set…GO!”. We played for five minutes. It was the highlight of my week.
Make no mistake – this faintly Sisyphean game wasn’t a colossal breakthrough. It didn’t explain what has been or re-shape what is to come. It was just another precious now, magical, merciful, snared spontaneously and opportunistically, like a big red bouncing ball at the bottom of the stairs.
It’s possible there may never be a Hoyt Team dawn in our little family’s future.
But there’ll always be fireflies.