Pretty awesome is my daughter- Today, a weekend day, we took on the challenge of finding a spot on the beach. What were we thinking? Challenge is amplified when one of your party uses a wheelchair for mobility AND head and trunk support. What this means is that we have to infiltrate the lifeguard stations to borrow and then transfer Julius from his manual, indoor wheelchair to a bubble-tired sand-roving beach wheelchair. I am ever so grateful when one is available. Chalk one point for California beaches. Still, with a body as "involved" as Julius' (this is how we articulate the level of severity for individuals with cerebral palsy) we still have to adapt the adapted beach chairs, which have no head rests, lateral supports or chest harnesses. So there I go about my way, tucking in a Styrofoam water board to increase the height of the backrest, tying a scarf around Julius' chest, stuffing rolled towels behind his neck. I removed all the bags from one chair and clamped them to the beach-buggie: Back pack, suction machine, sterile water, tube feeding bag. I slipped the strapped finger pulse oximeter around my neck, made more adjustments and off we went. Julius coughed. I grunted. The buggie doesn't move well on the concrete, but it's only a few yards to the sand from the lifeguard/security house so we managed, but had to maneuver around the red security truck stopped right in front of the transition. "Really?" I think to myself. We bumped down to the sinking sand. I was wearing tennis shoes rather than sandals because just last week I turned my ankle and need more support. I pushed forward full body angled to get all the thrust I could. My sight-line was obscured by the height of the board behind Julius' head.
Sure enough, Julius bumped quickly off the paddle board backing and I was disappointed with myself for not bringing something more functional for his head support. Already, I felt my ankle aching but I stepped along the side of the buggie to push my son back to center and tried again. The same thing happened. But this time I saw my daughter closely by kneeling in the sand diagonally to the right of us. "C'mere baby girl" I said flagging her over, "help hold your brother up." "Okay" she sings and jumps without hesitation to take on the task, pushing on him from the side, but she was no match for his dead weight and the swollen tires where too big for her to work around. "Come up here" I encouraged and she climbed up to her brother's lap facing outward like she's done dozens of times during our walks together. "Let's turn you around," I instructed facing her toward him with each leg straddling his hips. "Hold onto his shoulders tight now" and she's so sure she's got this, "Okay mommy!" But of course, even with her extra height for a two-and-a-half-year-old she doesn't have the physical strength to prevent her brother from slipping and she slipped along with him. Again I stopped and this time adjusted both of them.
Now, I can't imagine what we must have looked like to the congested bodies on the beach who were clearly not sure how to react, but finally a woman broke the barrier and asked if she could help. I knew she was a mother (must be mo-dar), "yes, please," I said truly thankful as my ankle had already begun throbbing. With her gesture, the staleness was broken and people began to snap to the reality that it was okay to step in. Another man came and MM, who was watching from a distance, dropped the beach load he was lugging to come help as well. Julius' little sister continued to do her part, holding her brother as best as she could. MM turned the buggie around and pulled going backwards towards the water, while another man helped and we two mothers supported the sides so both kids would stay centered. When we stopped at the first clearing big enough for us, I thanked the strangers for helping and little sis slid belly-down her brothers legs to run for her beach toys. She had no reflection, no judgement what-so-ever-about the feat that was just accomplished.