Sunday, February 04, 2007

Are We Ever Really Alone? Do We Really Want To Be?

My friend/pen pal Courtney is awesome. She's just like me. We have the same level of spina bifida. We both have daughters (hers just turned a year old this past Autumn), and we have very similar likes, dislikes and opinions on lots of different things.

But Courtney has a dilemma right now. Namely, what to do with herself and her daughter when her Navy husband is deployed for another 6 months in the coming weeks?

Should she move out to CA, to their new base, where she knows no one and has no known means of child care support or - um - friends?

Or should she move back to Indiana to be near her mom and stepdad, who'll be available to help her take care of her daughter, help her manage her own medical needs, and - um - can be kinda overly protective/opinionated/exasperating to their grown daughter who's just trying to be as responsible and independent as possible?

Decisions, decisions.

I told Courtney that my gut says she should move back to Indiana. I know if it were me, I would appreciate the close proximity and support from my parents more than be annoyed by little girl treatment I'd be sure to sometimes encounter in their presence. I'd rather be near people who loved me and could help me in a moment's notice than to be in a new location (essentially) by myself with no known means of personal support.

On the other hand, if she moved to CA, Courtney would be on a military base (as long as the housing came through). She'd surely be able to make quick friends with all the other military wives. I don't know about the military lifestyle at all, but I'm sure there'd be childcare on base, as well as exceptional medical facilities that could handle any routine or emergency issue either Courtney or her daughter would run into.

Plus, it's warm out there. With beaches. That's always nice.

So, like I said - what to do?

After many stressful days, long talks with her husband, and many list making comparisons, I think she's found her answer. Last we emailed each other, Courtney seemed pretty well set with her decision. She and her husband talked long and hard about all the pro's and con's of both situations. She had some more phone calls to make to help her with the final decision but, other than that, she's made up her mind. She'll go to Indiana.

But, boy oh boy, was that difficult.

As she said to me in an email...

This is (one of) the only time(s) in my life...where I have felt that my body has failed me in multiple ways. The best way for me to put it is that I feel like my body has left me a prisoner in some ways. I'm never going to have that independence that I crave because I'm always going to have to have someone around just in case things go wrong...not only for me, but most importantly for (my daughter).

Courtney loves her parents and appreciates all they do for her. And I know my parents are wonderful, giving, loving people who are always there for me whenever I need them (and even when I don't think I do). She and I are both so blessed to have the families that we do.

But when you're disabled and you're an adult and you want so badly to make it on your own, to be yourself, to be independent, to be a free spirit, to defy the system and take care of everything on your own - can it really happen?

I'm sure it certainly can. I'm know, for many disabled adults who simply don't have the support of their families and/or friends, that - like it or not - they are on their own. They deal with it every single day. And they get by. Maybe happily and successfully. Maybe not.

But for people like Courtney, or me - disabled adults who do have the priviledge of asking for family assistance when they need it - when their spouses go off to war, when they just had major abdominal surgery, when they just need to get a break from it all - I think we should take it.

Don't think of it as losing your independence. Don't think of it as resorting to your childhood and being treated like a kid. Think of it as doing what you need to do to most help out not only yourself, but your spouse and child(ren) as well. Think of it as the responsible, adult thing to do.

Sure, toes can be stepped on when outside members of your immediate family are helping you care for your child. Maybe grandma, who's already successfully raised her own family, will not agree with a few of your parenting decisions. Maybe it will even be confusing for the child - whose authority should he/she listen to when/if orders come down that are conflicting?

But, in my opinion, all the trouble and frustration is worth the result.

A loving family to help you when you need it. A close knit family to give you support, while also allowing you the space you need to make your own decisions, set your own goals and live your own life.

That's what I've got. And I think that's what Courtney's got as well.

Everyone should be so lucky.

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