Today is my son’s birthday. I wrote a bunch of stuff and then deleted it because I’m not so sure he’d be pleased to see it out there on the net forever and ever. Our conversations are usually short (but sweet) and don’t often venture into the touchy feely category. So I’ll just say Happy Birthday, Ryan. I’m very proud of you and how hard are working to create the life you want, despite a few rocks (okay boulders) in your path and that really crappy hand in the genetics card game.
And because sometimes we all need to be reminded of how far much we’ve accomplished against the odds, I’d like to remind you of something you said a while ago when you wrote about how it felt to be hit with Muscular Dystrophy.
You said, "I was doing things I should not have been able to do simply because I did not know that I should not be able to do them."
I want you to remember your own words when life throws you another curve ball and you think you can’t do something. Because Ryan, let me tell you, you can do anything you set your mind to do. Really.
For those of you who read my blog, I wonder if you would help me wish Ryan a happy birthday and share a favorite story or quote or scripture about courage for him? Thank you.
Happy birthday, Ryan.
There is still a little bit of Saturday left and since I didn’t do a Friday Five, here’s my Six on Saturday.
1. I bought 25 new plants today. Another 20 or so are being delivered next week. I have lots of digging ahead of me.
2. It’s raining again. That means most of my digging will be in mud. Clay mud to be exact.
3. There is no way I am going to meet all my deadlines for next week. I just have to figure out which balls are plastic and therefore okay to drop and which ones are glass that I need to keep juggling.
4. Carpos hamburgers in Capitola for dinner. Yum. Yum.
6. Some of you know that my son Ryan has Muscular Dystrophy. It wasn’t diagnosed until he was a young adult already living on his own and working a job he loved. Today he blogged a bit about his life with MD and he said something he discovered to be true for himself that I think we can apply to our writing. He was talking about how he had managed to find a way to continue to do his job as a mechanic in spite of the limitations of his body.
He said, "I was doing things I should not have been able to do simply because I did not know that I should not be able to do them."
What if we wrote without thinking about limits? What if we simply wrote the story we wanted to tell without thinking about all the parts of writing we don’t know how to do? What if we just let the story be the guide? I bet we might all find out, as Ryan has, that we are capable of much more than we ever realized.
Ryan is new to blogging and this is the first time he has shared so much about his disease with so many strangers. If you’re so inclined, perhaps you’ll pop over and read the entire post here.
It’s still Thursday so I still have time to post a thankful thought.
I am very thankful for some good news my son received today - he found out today that he was accepted into the impacted major of his choice at UCSC (Santa Cruz.).
I am quite sure that college acceptances are something all parents cheer about but I’m cheering especially loud. Until recently, my 28-year-old son never had any intention of going to college. But a few years ago, when he was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy, he had to give up a job he loved as a mechanic at a car dealership. His body was no long able to keep up the pace.
So he is starting over.
It isn’t easy for him but he knows he has to learn a new skill in order to support himself and continue to be self-sufficient. And he needs to do it right now before his body begins to give out even more.
Like any parent who is hit with the news that something is wrong with their child, I wanted to fix it for him. I wanted to make it better or make it go away. But I can’t fight Muscular Dystrophy for him. He has to fight that battle on his own.
I cut my writing teeth on articles for the regional parenting publications. They were a new industry. I was a new writer. We grew up together. I had young kids and I often wrote about them. Tonight I was reminded of the first parenting article I ever sold. It was about Ryan and how determined he was fight his own battles in his own way.
WHOSE DREAM IS IT?
“Mom, I want to quit karate.”
With those few words, Ryan, my thirteen-year-old son, declared war.
For two solid years, four times a week, I had willingly driven thirty miles to the nearest karate dojo. In that short amount of time, Ryan exhibited a natural ability that quickly moved him up the ranks. He had earned the first black stripe on his Brown Belt. Only two more tests until he would have his Black Belt. And now, he wanted to quit.
The lessons had been Ryan’s idea, not mine. To me, karate implied violence. To Ryan, they represented power.
“Mom, I’m a wimp. I’m tired of all the bullies picking on me. I need to learn how to defend myself.”
I resisted. My excuses ranged from, “I don’t want you to get hurt. You’ll never practice.” And that parental favorite, “We can’t afford it.”
I didn’t give in until the day he came home with a bloody nose because of a bully who made him kiss the pavement, nose first.
Karate lessons began the very next day.
From the beginning, I sensed something special about the school. His Sensi, (teacher) did more than just teach the kids how to defend themselves against an enemy. He taught survival skills for life.
“Keep your eyes open,” Sensi told them. “Be aware of what’s going on around you. Set goals. Learn the skills needed to meet your goals.”
Once Sensi asked a class of thirty-five kids, “How many of you consider yourselves average?” To his dismay, almost every hand went up.
“Put your hands down,” he yelled. “Never, ever admit that you are average. You have within you the ability to be anything you want, as long as you’re willing to work at it.”
Ryan never missed a class or a test. With the rest of the students, he performed monthly demonstrations in parades, shopping malls and fairs. When special seminars came around, I always made sure he attended. I bought him books and videos, then quizzed him on the material. In my mind, the more opportunities he took advantage of, the quicker he would advance to that all-important Black Belt.
But along the way, I forgot to ask Ryan what he wanted. So I felt shocked and disappointed when he told me earning a Black Belt no longer mattered to him.
“I’m going to quit,” he said. “It’s no fun anymore. Baseball season starts soon and I’d rather practice baseball than karate.”
“But you’re so close to becoming a Black Belt,” I insisted. “Why give up before you reach your goal? Haven’t you listened to anything Sensi has tried to teach you?”
“Yes, Mom, I have. Sensi said anything is possible if you’re not afraid of hard work. I want to play in the Major Leagues someday. That means I have to devote my time to improving my baseball skills. I’d like to try out for the High School team, and maybe play winter ball, but I need to practice hard if I hope to make the cuts.”
“Couldn’t you stay with karate for just one more year,” I begged, still clinging to the vision of his Black Belt.
Ryan stood his ground and shook his head. “I learned what I wanted to from karate. I know how to defend myself, even against people bigger than me. I’m not afraid of bullies or a gang with knife, because I know what to do and how to get away.”
His only other comment was, “If getting a Black Belt is so important to you, Mom, maybe you’re the one who should be taking karate instead of me.”
His words shocked me, much like a bucket of cold water jolts your system awake. That’s when I stepped back and took a good look at my son. There had been no whining. He hadn’t raised his voice or lost his temper. He had come to a decision based on the goals he had set for himself. Then he presented the facts to me in a calm and grown-up manner.
No longer my little baby, but not quite a young man, Ryan had taken the first step toward adulthood by taking control of his own life. Which, I think, was exactly what Sensi wanted to teach him all along.
Nothing’s changed much in the 15 years since I wrote that. Ryan is still fighting his own battles in his own way. And I couldn’t be more proud.
Way to go, Ryan.