Our oldest son has wanted to raise steers since before he even understood what makes a steer a steer, but the pieces have never fallen together to make it happen until now. Remember the wonderful people I wrote about last week? Our community is full of them. And thanks to one we’ve had the privilege of knowing since before we moved here, our son now has a steer. I’m still not sure on all the details, but they have it all worked out and I know there’s nothing to worry about.
This recent development in our lives has sent me on several trips down memory lane. So many, in fact, I even had to head to the attic to dig out my FFA record books to sneak a peek at some of my own steers from back in the day. My word, how fresh those memories are!
My mom has been kind enough to remind me of some of the more memorable moments of working to break my steers to lead, not that I had forgotten by any means, but she does tell them from a different perspective, such as literally rolling on the porch floor, laughing with my brother while my steer took me “skiing.” See, it was winter. It had been cold and a bit of snow had fallen, but really more ice than anything. This was common, but we had an unusually warm day and so, it was time to get to work. Clyde, my steer, wanted to run. I did not. When our mule didn’t want to move, she locked all four knees and it worked to keep her in her spot, so I tried the same. What resulted was quite the slide. All was well for a while, in fact, I really almost even felt like I was skiing, until we hit the sidewalk. Rather, my feet hit the sidewalk and Clyde kept running. I flew through the air, my belly hit the ground, and Clyde kept running. We covered most of the few acres of the yard that way. Clyde kept running and I kept holding on – held my head up and just didn’t let go. I’m sure it was quite the sight from the porch, but to be honest, it only hurt for a little bit and it was quite the ride, even fun for a while.
As I listened to my mom retell the story last week, I couldn’t help but laugh. We lost my brother four and a half years ago and these stories help to keep his memory alive, especially for my children. I think I could almost hear him laughing right along with us. But here’s the statement that hit me: Never let go! Mom always ends the retelling of this particular Clyde story, and there are many, with saying, “We always told you, ‘Never let go’ and you didn’t.”
I couldn’t get past that statement as we went about our day. You can’t imagine how many times I remind myself not to give up on something that we’re working on with Ben. Life in the spectrum scene is full moments bearing the reminder don’t give up. In short, never let go of hope. We don’t know what the future holds for our son, but with the help of his amazing team in ITAP at Easter Seals, we have hope. Ben spent 25 weeks last year in the Intensive Therapeutic Autism Program at Easter Seals – Central Illinois. There they worked on speech therapy, occupational therapy, developmental therapy, behavioral therapy, and a whole host of other things for three hours, two afternoons a week. He’s now transitioned to full day preschool here in our local school district and he seems to be doing well. There are challenges, but everyone has challenges.
Yesterday, Ben went to children’s church. He went and stayed and even participated. This has been two and a half years in the making. Prior to yesterday, I got him in the gym once. Each subsequent visit was met with protest complete with shrieks of “No!” and brakes much the same as I used with Clyde going on at the gym door. But yesterday, I used a visual schedule, a technique taught to me by a speech therapist friend and used heavily at ITAP which simply shows what’s going to happen and in what order. It takes away the anxiety of the unknown. Just a simple list with very basic pictures to show we’re going to do a lesson, sing, snack, craft, and play and he was all set. We’ve used visual schedules with Ben off and on for nearly a year now, and it still amazes me how well it works. Yesterday, he walked right in, sat down and even participated. Chalk up another success for Ben and another reminder for us to never let go of hope and never give up!
I think we all go through phases in which we’d like to know exactly what’s going to happen and when, but we don’t always have that luxury. I’ve often thought I’d like to know these things, but when I’m honest with myself I have to admit I really don’t. I wouldn’t have wanted to know Clyde was going to take off and drag me on my belly for longer than anyone ever thought I could hold on. I would have been scared by the what if’s. What if I couldn’t hold on? What if I couldn’t hold my head up? What if I broke an ankle or lost half my face on the ice? What if? What if? What if? What if I never had the courage to work with Clyde in the first place? Oh the lessons that I would have missed, and the fun memories, too!
I don’t know what the future holds for us, but I do know we’ll continue to hold our heads up and hold on to hope…we’ll never let go.