We were nearly through our game when a mom and her special needs son arrived. "I think we are supposed to bowl on this lane," she said to me. Her son was tall and husky, much bigger than her and she kept control by lovingly holding both hands in hers. I recognized that move, having done similar with Kurt in the past.
So Sue and Nate joined us. We were bowling at the BRIDGE for Youth with Disabilities bowl-a-rama. The 16 lanes were full and loud music was playing over the crash of pins; general chaos all around.
Our team, like all the others, had a special BRIDGE bowler(Kurt was ours), three bowlers who had collected donations in the few weeks before this event(me, my mom, and friend Leann's son Shane), and University of Wisconsin - River Falls students who were mentors to the special bowlers. Our team had three students; Miranda was helping Kurt and the other two students, tall basketball players, didn't have any bowler assigned to them.
"Your turn to bowl Nate," I said.
Nate had a faint smile as he looked at me with his brown eyes. His mom followed closely as Nate picked up an orange ball, approached the lane and dropped it like a hot potato. It slowly rolled its way down as we all held our breath, hoping the ball wouldn't stop short. Finally, a few pins were gently toppled.
"Wade," I said to one of our students. "Would you help him so his mom doesn't have to?
He jumped up and took over. I remembered the relief I felt when students helped Kurt last year, our first time at this event. Kurt knew how to bowl, but needed to be told when it was his turn and having a student tell him was much easier for Kurt to take than having his mom do it. Besides, the students celebrated with him, offering high fives when he knocked down pins.
I could see Nate was a handful. He tended to wander in front of the other bowlers, and Wade began holding his hand to keep him in place. When Nate sat down, he would stretch his feet out and gently tap his shoes on mine, in some kind of secret connection I didn't object to.
Sue had a fervent look and attended to Nate's every need, on guard and ready for anything. I knew that look. I've worn it myself. When Kurt was on heavy doses of anti-seizure medications and having multiple daily seizures, his behavior was unpredictable. The noise in here alone may have had him bolting for the door. Or hiding out in the bathroom. Or he might have thrown a ball at someone or knocked everyone's drinks off the table. Being in public with Kurt required superhuman strength and I would be exhausted when we got home. As Kurt's behavior has improved, and because of the welcoming atmosphere of BRIDGE, I've learned to relax.
"So do you live in Hudson?" I asked Sue.
"Yes," she said. "Are you a volunteer?"
"No, that's my son," I pointed to Kurt. She glanced at Kurt as he prepared to bowl and looked back at me with new eyes. I hoped that she felt a little less alone. I know that BRIDGE helps me feel a part of the community.
As I reflect on the day's events, I can't help but think of Sue and all the parents who are dedicated to their special needs children. And all the caregivers and foster parents who choose to take this 24x7 job.
I know you do it out of love. You are amazing!