bitter sweet.

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Contrasts wring my heart today. Hidden beneath the seat of one of our boats are another batch of eggs, while proud parents walk their gosling brood across the jetty to explore the spring. In contrast I take one who has served, now aged, recovering slowly from a life changing operation. He cannot remember now, he tells me with a touch of sadness, how to sail. As I take him slowly out on the lake contrasting his former lifelong abilities with my incompetent navigation, it begins to return.

“Loosen the starboard line, just a wee bit, see, let it catch the wind…” I see the joy of sailing kindle in his eyes, but he is no longer the teacher, the one who takes the disabled out on the boats. The tide has changed, we all fuss over him with hugs, tea and cakes and sailing…

I sense his time drawing nearer as the goslings is beginning, life’s circle coming to an end, volunteer becoming sailor. He keeps a smile but it’s hard. I’ll take him again, we all will, his investment has grown dividends of love and friendship, what he has given he will receive.

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So I’m not the only one!

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(The photo is from bing images as we can’t take photos of our special sailors)

My eleven year old grandson was a little anxious at the idea of accompanying me to my volunteer sailing. He loves kayaking and water in general but wasn’t sure how he’d be around disabled folks. (He was staying with me while his parents were away.)

“I don’t know how to act, I just feel so bad for them,” he explained.

“Don’t “act”, just be yourself, they are experts at that,” I explained. “Show them respect by treating them as you would anyone else.”

He was trying extra hard to be helpful as we helped ready the boats. A normally friendly guy, he seemed a little reticent around all us busy retired folks (it being a week day the younger volunteers  were working). Then the “special” sailors began to arrive. He’d been helping fish out the weed with a long branch (it’s been a problem this year) and one of the teenage sailors seemed to think this a great task and joined him.  They seemed to quietly enjoy each other’s company sharing the task, so our smart leader decided to try him on a kata-canoe together with several other sailors and a carer.

I was drafted to the safety boat from which I noticed a lot of noise coming from the canoe, my grandson’s voice yelling above the commotion. Concerned that he might be making a nuisance of himself (he can get a bit much sometimes lol!) we drew alongside and I asked the carer  if he was getting too rambunctious, but he replied, no he was doing great at getting the others to join in.

After the session ended he came bounding up.

“I’ve never had so much fun and I just made five new friends! I see what you mean Gran , I really like these guys!” he yelled at me.

That was it for the rest of the day. He went out twice more on the canoes not only pulling his wait paddling hard in the hot sun, but getting the kids/families to join in. He was so appreciated that a family, that came for the first time that day, tried to give him a tip! Lol! (We explained that he had had as much fun as their kids and no way did they need to tip him!) but I heard them talking to each other saying they’d never expected it to be so much fun and that they’d definitely be bringing the kids again.

Home exhausted, but happy, he asked eagerly “can I come again next week?”

“You were right about them Gran,” he added, “they were more fun than my regular friends. They don’t try to act cool, they are just themselves and it’s so much fun being with them.”

The bonding surprised me and I was real proud of him. He’d seen right past their varied disabilities to recognise their true value.

Enjoying freedom.

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Today is the second day of being “boot free”! (I slipped and had to wear a surgical boot for two weeks). I’m reveling in simple things I took for granted for example:
1) Being able to ride my bike again – mobility!
2)Taking a shower minus the delicate, chair assisted, operation of getting into the bath tub without putting weight on my injured ankle.
3) Going up and down my banister-less stairs easily (crawling and bumping on my bum is so undignified lol!)
4) Starting to get back to normal walking speed instead of snail pace.
5) Not having to plan my life to the tiny detail. If I left something upstairs for example it was a big deal to go get it.
6) Not having to strap on “the boot” if I need to go bathroom in the night (takes a while by which time you are well awake.)

Some things I’m still working on – running, going downstairs normally (still doing a sideways shuffle for safety), and being able to fit both feet into my tennies again. Thankfully it healed amazingly fast with very little pain.
The biggest thing I was most thankful for, (and which I constantly reminded myself of) is that it was only very temporary. I bow to those heroes and heroines that bare with such things (or worse) on a permanent basis and manage to keep a cheery smile. I’ve many times helped those with crutches, leg supports even wheelchairs onto the boats so they could go sailing, but now I have even more understanding of just how frightening it must be trying to get down into that boat.I applaud their courage!

Sixty + fun!

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I had such an enjoyable day yesterday! (I’m a volunteer with a group that takes disabled people, sailing on the lake near where I live.)
First session, perfect sailing weather (sun and light wind) with a great “special” partner – a chatty young girl with a big smile, heaven!
Then adventure! As I took off a second time from the jetty, I noticed two big black clouds either side of the lake. All seemed fine till the wind picked up (prelude to heavy rain) gusting us mercilessly towards the shallow water . With visions of being stuck in the reeds while the safety boat removed their rudder to reach us and those black clouds rained down, I began to wave frantically.
The problem was my companion, joining in the “game”, began to wave also. The safety boat waved back happily, thinking “those guys are really having fun!” Eventually they got the point and came to drag us back to deep water and we all made it back before the skies opened. Everyone had a good laugh about that one!
Adventure over, sheltering from the rain, I sighed as I was assigned as helper on the safety boat.. (The safety boat is always the last on the water if it rains!)
Surprisingly instead of a drenching it turned out to be the funest time ever. Not only did the rain stop and the sun appear but, due to only two sailing boats (both with very expert crew members) to watch out for, the motor boats had nothing to do. Soon an impromptu “water fight” began between us and the patrol boat creating wakes to rock/splash each other, reeling and twirling like a fairground ride. I don’t know when I last screamed and shrieked with laughter so much! (amazing for all us 60 +ers.) Our boat “won” with never a drop of wash water reaching us (well the guy on the tiller was a retired sailing instructor lol!) The two “special sailors” watched from the sail boats laughing and enjoying the entertainment.
Sometimes I feel so young!

Hidden sunshine.

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The day is dull and cloudy, and yet there trails a song,

The water still and placid as the wind pulls us along.

The birds that circle over, tern, swallow and a goose,

The flapping of the sail above, the line that is too loose.

The laughter of my sailor as she spots one of her own,

His craft he’s proudly steering (though he’s also from the home).

Their lives are seldom sunny, each body has a flaw,

Yet the heart that dwells within them still causes them to soar.

The calmness of the water that stretches all about,

Must open up the spirit and let the joy come out.

 

(Thoughts on taking disabled folks sailing).

Good question!

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new!

Well actually I did do something for the first time today. I ran aground in the shallows of the lake after my disabled sailing buddy grabbed the tiller for the upteenth time while repeating “ash! ash!” in a frenzied voice.

After a couple of minutes of frantic waving on my part (and jubilant whoops of euphoria for some reason on my buddy’s) our faithful safety patrol guys came to pull us off.

After returning his carer told me, “oh he means food. It’s almost lunch time.” (Now I understand his anguished gestures towards the jetty and final frustrated grabbing the tiller – he wanted to eat!)

So I learnt two new things –

  1. Our safety crew are saints (instead of teasing me about my lack of sailing ability they smiled and announced, “you wont be the only ones going aground here today with that prevailing wind.” – no one else did but that made me feel better).
  2. ) I learnt that food can be very important to a disabled person. (He was afraid he might miss his meal out there on the lake.)

Learning freedoms we so often lack.

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The wind is gusting the sails, fighting for control of our small vessel. My “special” companion works the tiller, proving surprisingly adept as he carries on a soliloquy of “Can you paint with all the colours of the wind?”

We laugh and squeal as it takes us twirling to circle round, and try again to tack, we have to yield; you cannot win a battle with the wind!

He talks about Deadpool (his obsession) asks what I’d do if I saw him coming towards us in a boat full of guns. He tries out his humour on me. I love the freedom of these “special sailors”, they never pretend, they just “are”. Though each disabled in some way they share a bond of freedom we so often lack.

I’ve always felt I could learn from everyone I encountered in life, but did I leave these out, the autistic, mongoloid, mentally handicapped, disabled?

Now I begin to understand. They have so much to teach me, of freedom, of simple joy, of appreciation, of love.

I love the sun on the water, the rush of the wind as it lifts the boat, and I love spending time with these pure ones.