Posts Tagged ‘Being a Quadriplegic Father’

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The Miracle Bowl

December 9, 2010

For college football aficionados, especially those who are BYU fans, The Miracle Bowl represents one of the finest comebacks ever in the history of the college football—engineered by the great Jim McMahon. The Cougars had never won a bowl game coming into the 1980 Holiday Bowl, and the “experts” seemed sure they wouldn’t get this one either.

They were matched up against the Mustangs of SMU who boasted two of the best running backs in the game.  Nicknamed the “Pony Express,” Eric Dickerson and Craig James were picked to run roughshod over Brigham Young.

With four minutes left in the game, everything was turning out just as it was supposed to. BYU’s defense couldn’t handle SMU’s offense, and the Mustangs scored to take a commanding 45-25 lead over the Cougars.

But, like all miracles, the undoable found a way to get done.  Over the next four minutes, BYU found a way back.  Then, in the final minute of the game, now just down by six, The Cougs blocked a punt, and with 13 seconds left, ended up with the ball on the 41-yard line.  After two incompletions, McMahon threw a “Hail Mary” pass as time expired.  Due to an amazing catch, the ball found its way into Clay Brown’s hands for the touchdown.  With no time left, the miracle was completed as the extra point was good.  BYU took their first bowl win with a 46-45 victory. (To see a piece done on The Miracle Bowl, click here—or watch it at the end of this post)

This year, I had my own Miracle Bowl.  It was twice as amazing, and took my breath away in a way the 1980 Holiday Bowl never could.

It was the first weekend in November and BYU was playing at home against UNLV.  The night before, I had decided that I wasn’t going to use my season tickets, and just watch the game on TV.  It was supposed to be pretty cold, and UNLV was on a down year to say the least.

But, when I woke up the next morning, the weatherman was all wrong (big shock…right?!)  It was a beautiful day, with temperatures you expected to see in mid September—not the first of November.  Feeling like I couldn’t pass on such a beautiful day, I got on the phone and started making the rounds to see if I could find a second (Ko’s my usual game day gal, but things have been a little off this year…OK maybe more than just a little).

I called my brother, my brother in law, my buddy—all the usual suspects, and because of the late notice no one could join me.  Finally, sitting at the counter, I looked over at Cole and asked him.  He didn’t say no—frankly, he didn’t really say anything, I took that as a yes, and we were off.

We made the hour and a half trip brilliantly.  I was in the front of the van doing my pregame prep by listening to the pre-game on 1160 AM, while Cole was in the back getting all he needed from Donald Duck (said like it’s all one word, “Donalduck”).  We prepare for games very differently, but different strokes and all that

We got to the stadium where Cousin Jessie, who’s going to the Y, met us, and unloaded The Cole Man from his car seat.

Coleman with his cousin Jessie

Before I knew it, there we were, Cole and I taking in our first Cougar game together. We sat there, got some pics together, and with Cosmo the mascot, Cole saw his first touchdown (which we happened to get on video—you can see that below too) and even somehow enjoyed a hot dog together.  Which, I know may not seem like much, but when you have no use of your hands, partial use of your arms, and have your left hand side unable to help since it’s being used holding Cole, buying, unwrapping, and sharing a hot dog with a 22 month old takes real skill!

Cole meeting "Cosmo" and looking a little unsure about doing so.

Cole takin' time to talk to the ladies (Here he is with his friend Lauren)

Then, in the middle of all the cheering and fun (BYU won big), it hit me.

I’ve had those same seats for a long time; since ’89 when I was a freshman;  since before I knew Kolette.  I’ve been watching BYU play football from those same seats for 21 seasons now, and during those seasons I’ve seen a lot—a lot of football, a lot of fun, and a lot of fathers taking their sons to football games.  Through nearly all those seasons, I wondered if I would ever get to be one of those fathers.

Then, on the 6th of November, there I was—watching a game with my boy.  I was now the father.  I now got to make sure my boy could see the ball, meet the mascot and get a hot dog.

Tears welled up in my eyes, and streamed down my face, as I saw my Miracle Bowl.  For, I was reminded again, as I so often am, that Cole is just that—a miracle—the real thing.  Just like the BYU vs. SMU game, Cole proves that the undoable is doable, and that the “experts” don’t always know as much as they think they do.  It made me grateful to my Father in Heaven for this supreme blessing; for this incredible kindness.

It may not be the best game I’ve ever seen, but it was the most beautiful.

Me and my miracle man

I love you son,

Dad

The scoreboard after the TD

THE MIRACLE BOWL

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Surprises On Both Sides

December 2, 2009

Some friends of ours came to the house to see Coleman the other day.  Our friends have gotten to that point where they don’t even pretend to be there to see us.  All pretense is gone.   They’re there to see Cole and if we happen to be there then its just icing on the cake.

But during all the oohhing and ahhing, over Cole (they hadn’t seen him in months) one of them turned to me and asked how the whole fatherhood experience has been in comparison to what I’d expected.  In my answer, I began to think about what has been easier than I anticipated and what’s been more difficult.

Easier:

  • Holding—I’ve been able to hold him far more than I expected.  Cole’s temperament has been a big player here, and it’s been a little gift from heaven.  From the very beginning, Coleman’s always has been calm in my arms. Whether it was letting me feed and burp him in the beginning to being able to cruise around in my chair with him on my lap, or in my arm, my ability to hold my boy has far surpassed my wildest dreams.

  • Feeding—From the bottle through to our current Gerber/Table food stage, I’ve been able to feed Coleman.  I was sure that this was going to be something that only Kolette was going to be a part of.  However, it’s been something that I’ve done nearly every day.  Whether it’s been throwin’ some formula down his gullet (thanks Boppy), or slingin’ some sweet potatoes into his mouth, I’ve managed to feed Cole nearly every day—at least once. I’ve been able to hold a bottle, hold the container of baby food, and work the spoon.  It’s been a huge help that Coleman sits in his High Chair with his arms down and mouth open wide—but, as a quadriplegic, I never expected to be a part of that part of his young life.

  • Playing—I felt sure that I’d be able to play with Cole, but I thought I’d have to wait until he was older to really “get involved wit it.”  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  We’ve figured our all kinds of things, from throwing him around while I’m lying in bed to playing games after he eats.  We’ve used toothbrushes, cups, pretzels, wooden spoons, and anything else we could think of.  One of the real joys of my life has been playing with my buddy.

More Difficult:

  • Picking Him Up—It’s been hard from the day he was born to the day I write this post to watch him need to be lifted off the floor, out of his crib, from his High Chair, or up from his playpen.  It kills me.  I watch my boy need help and I can’t help him.  It definitely makes me feel helpless.

  • Getting Down on the Ground—If I had ten minutes out of my chair, there’s no question that much of that time would be spent playing with Coleman down on his level.  I watch others do it, and it’s different than having him on my lap.  I love the time I get face to face, but it’s on the counter or in bed.  As I watch him play, it’s easy to tell it’s different when it’s down in his environment—on his terms.  How I’d love to play with his stuff, at his height with no distractions, no counter top, no moving wheelchair—a just me and my boy.

  • Not Being Able to Watch Him Alone—Kolette and I have been able to make it so I can keep a monitor and watch over him while he naps, but if he wakes up, have to have someone to call to come take over.  Kolette works so hard, and when she has to be somewhere else, I’d love to be able to care for him all on my own.  It may not seem like much, but I’m his Dad and look forward to the time that the two of us can stand on our own two feet.

Now, before anyone feels bad, or wants me to look on the bright side, understand this—I am richly blessed. I have more and do more than I ever expected to have or do, before I had my accident. After all my injuries, I realize that I am one of the few that is lucky enough to say that I am married to my best friend and have a champ of a boy for a son.  I love my life—every single minute of it.

But, like every life there are things that are easy and things that are hard.  I think everyone goes into this fatherhood thing blind, but, because of my unique situation, I believe I went in blinder than most.  I therefore thought that it might be interesting to evaluate the good and the bad.  And, I have to say; I was surprised at some of my feelings on both sides.

However, thinking through all of this did bring me to a few undeniable conclusions.

First, I have a saint for a wife.  The majority of the things I’ve figured out to do have been because she was helping me think through them, both to find the answers, and support me through the learning curve.  She is definitely of the “If at first you don’t succeed” camp, and that has blessed my life as much as it has Coleman’s.

Second, a little patience goes a long way.  There are so many things we’ve figured out that we wouldn’t have if we had given up the first go ‘round. I’m grateful for patience.  It’s given me the chance to learn so much more about what I can and can’t do.

Finally, I can’t wait to see what the future holds.  I know there will be somethings that will surprise me and be easier than I think, and some that will disappoint and be more difficult.  But, so far it’s been the journey that’s brought the joy, and I can’t wait to see what’s around the next bend.

Jh-