Friday, August 28, 2009

Ever-Expanding World

Kurt has always been one to like having his family close. He worries about “Keifer,” the nickname that stuck on his older brother. “When will Keifer be home?” Kurt has asked numerous times this summer. Keith has been home from college doing an engineering internship in Minneapolis. When he goes out at night or is away for the weekend visiting his fiancĂ©, Kurt worries.

Our college student left last weekend for UW-Platteville. Now Kurt tries to understand the nebulous calendar. He gets that each sunrise is a new day, but how many of them before Keifer returns is vague. “Sometime this fall,” I say, knowing that Kurt has a sense of seasons, but it really just stops the question until the first leaves turn color and begin to drop.

Keith will graduate in December, he has an apartment with Jen, and he started cleaning out his room for good, so we’ll have a guest room. How will Kurt react to his brother truly leaving the nest?

His younger brother Kelly is another source of concern for Kurt. Kelly has been his transportation this summer. After being so proud to introduce Kelly to his friends for the last couple of months, soccer practice started a few weeks ago and the two brothers are spending less time together. “Is Kelly at soccer?” Kurt will ask when I pick him up from Community Homestead. He’s disappointed to see me.

Kelly starts his senior year of high school in a few days.

What does Kurt think? Does he imagine where everyone is each day? He has ridden in Paul’s semi and he visited my office once. He has been to the high school and also to Platteville Keith’s first year. Does Kurt keep those visions in his memory?

Paul and I, and Kurt’s brothers have a large world at our convenience. We drive ourselves anywhere we want to go. We have access to the world through the internet, connecting with friends when we want, and shopping is limited only by our funds. Kurt’s world is much smaller. Socializing, shopping or any trips outside the home are up to someone other than Kurt. He has to rely on us.

Kurt’s world has been limited by his seizures and his disabilities. Yet, there is growth. He leaves home five days a week. Some days at Community Homestead, he’s washing the newly picked lettuce or pushing the wheelbarrow full of weeds to the compost. At the day program, he’s playing basketball with his friends at the YMCA and buying groceries to make a snack. He’s gathering eggs from the hens with his friend Nic when he stays with Nic's family. "That's my brother," Kurt tells the people around him on the bleachers when he sees Kelly on the soccer field. He’s buying CDs at garage sales and peanut butter cup blizzards at DQ.

Kurt’s world is expanding. Maybe, just maybe, that will help when his brothers’ worlds go far beyond his grasp.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Kurt wore his hat. When he tilted his chin down, the brim hid his eyes from public view. He tried to suppress a grin and when that failed, covered his mouth with his hand. I still got a glimpse of the sparkle in his eyes.

Paul, Kurt’s brothers and I were seated two rows back from the stage at the Bridge Players performance “A Night at the Movies.” Kurt was in the back row on stage, dressed in a Ghostbusters t-shirt, with the familiar “no ghosts” symbol emblazoned on the front. Other members of the cast included a Dorothy, a cowardly lion, a boy in a white-disco-suit, Danny and Sandy from Grease, and a staffer playing Uncle Fester, to name a few.

Kurt attended rehearsals all summer when he met his friends at Bridge for Youth with Disabilities. He’s been talking about the performance for over a week, asking Keith and Kelly if they would attend, asking when he could wear his Ghostbusters shirt.

The performers signed to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” accompanied by Judy Garland played over the stereo system. They waved animal puppets to Dr. Dolittle’s “Talk to the Animals.” They waved scarves to “We Go Together” and discoed to “Stayin’ Alive.”

Everyone participated in each song, but each person was a central player in at least one number. Kurt’s was “Ghostbusters.” Several cast members, including Kurt, waved homemade ghosts on poles. At the end of the song, 3 ghostbusters came out and chased 3 ghosts around the audience. Kurt was one of the chasees. He loved it!

The players finished with a rap song that led them out into the foyer, where they shook hands and accepted congratulations from their families. We were to enter another room for refreshments and I asked Kurt if he was coming too. “No, I have a crowd,” he said, referring to the remaining audience to greet.

When he joined us for bars and lemonade, Kurt brought Jen, aka Dorothy, to meet his family. Kurt added, “I’m having a party!”

That's all I want. For Kurt to have opportunities like every one else. Thank you Bridge!

Kurt at 19