Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Return

When we were first approached about Scout Camp for Brother our initial answer was, "no way."

When your twelve year old son is mentally 8-9 years old it doesn't sound like a great idea to send him with 11 other 12-year-olds and two adults to a camp 4.5 hours away from home for 6 days.

We still had him participate in all the activities leading up to the Scout Camp knowing that it was just for his social interaction and learning and not for preparation to go.

Then I got "the call."

One of his leaders, Jon, called about 4 days before camp started to ask me to have a letter written to him to read on a special night at camp, a letter expressing our love and appreciation for him as our son. I was a little set back because I thought everyone knew that Brother wasn't going to Scout Camp.

As I began to explain this to Jon he expressed his disappointment because Brother is such a great influence on the boys. He went on to say that when Brother is around the boys are always on their best behavior and strive to be good examples to him. He also expressed how much joy he brought to the activities for him, as a leader. I laughed at his encouragement to have Brother go to camp because in the next breath he explained that he, himself, was not able to go to Scout Camp because of work. "Of course you are encouraging him to go, you won't be there to deal with the hard times," I smirked over the phone. But, all kidding aside, my heart was touched and the idea of Brother going to camp for a week was becoming an idea that I thought may actually not be so far off the mark.

For a few days I pondered over it, knowing that Marc had said "no" many times and I agreed with him until those last few days.

Then on the Sunday before camp I talked to the two leaders, Varden and Jim, who would be going to the Scout Camp. I shared with them my dilemma in wanting Brother to go but also being to scared to let him be so far away in case anything went wrong. They assured me that they would love to have Brother there and had actually set up a buddy system for him and the other boys in case he was to come. Varden continued to assure me, there in the hallway of the church, that Brother would be a welcomed addition to the campout and they would do what was needed for his sake.

I felt a nervous peace about him going.

I talked to Marc about it after church and after some emotional words and tears we decided it was the best thing for him to go to Scout Camp.

We let our neighbors know.

We let our facebook friends know.

And, with help, we informed many people here in our neighborhood about our family's new endeavor.

Everyone was praying for him.

We felt surrounded by so many people who love and care for Brother. It was such a welcomed and familiar feeling. Everyone was so anxiously awaiting any report we had about how he was doing.

Everywhere I went people would ask, "Have you heard anything?" "How is he doing?"

For the first 3 days all I could say was that we had heard nothing so all I could assume was that all was well because nothing had gone wrong enough for them to call home about.

Finally, on Wednesday night we got a report that he had refused to change out of his pajamas all day. That made me giggle because we deal with that everyday at home. I just pictured all these young boys going around in their tan, official, Scout uniforms and there is Brother in his over-used, too small, red pajamas. It gave both Marc and I a good chuckle, but it got even better when we heard that they had gone on a hike and Brother had made it to the top! Only thing was, he didn't want to come down. So, Varden carried him down the mountain. Now I know that Brother is a skinny fellow, but he is long and lanky and not the easiest to bring down a hill. Even, now when you ask Brother about being carried down the hill he giggles. I cried some happy tears at that report seeing just how much these leaders love my son.

The next day, Thursday, we heard that Brother wasn't doing so well and they weren't able to get him to any of the merit badge classes or really anything else for that matter. I was also told that he hadn't been eating very well. It also happened that day that another adult was going up to join the other two leaders at the camp. I had contacted him sent him with more apples, granola bars and some homemade popcorn in a empty corn flakes box. Although the news that Brother wasn't doing so well that day I felt peace in my heart that his popcorn would give him the strength to go on. So funny, but so true. I am amazed what a bowl of popcorn can do for this kid and I just knew that if he was missing home this would help him out.

After a bit of a worrisome night I received a report from another mom that Brother was doing much better that morning and we didn't need to worry about going to get him.

We felt so good knowing that he was going to be successful at staying at camp all week and felt good that we had allowed him the opportunity to stay.

My friend, Brittany, was so excited about Brother coming home that she came over to decorate his room in purple and green balloons and streamers while I worked on his "welcome home" sign. Sister, JJ and Juju worked hard on their own signs and pictures to hang all over his wall and door. We were giddy with excitement doing this for him even though we both knew it may not stay up very long because it may be overstimulating or that he would not even want to see us when he got home and would run straight into the house and hide. But, we wanted to take the risk that he would love it, so we continued on and got the finishing touches done just as he pulled up in the van Saturday afternoon.

I wasn't sure what kind of reaction we would get, if he would be embarrassed, upset or happy.

When he stepped out of the van he was so dirty from head to toe that when he smiled with delight about having his own welcome sign his teeth were gleaming. He ran and gave me a big hug informing me he missed me and as Marc approached from his work in the garage he ran and gave him a big hug too. Marc and I were melted. We were so happy to have him home safe and sound, in one piece and excited to see us.

He loved his room, but was confused as to why it was all decorated (smile). I explained that Brittany wanted him to be happy when he got home and know that he was missed. He shyly smiled, trying not to let me know that it meant a lot to him that Brittany and all the other neighbors missed him too.

After he was able to readjust to being home we were able to get a few tidbits from him on what his favorite parts were.

He made an imaginary friend with a bear he named "Cilia" in the forest that he often went to visit. A good source told me that he was safe because all the boys and leaders kept a good eye on him and went to get him when ever he paid Cilia a visit. At first I was concerned as to what everyone thought of that, but realized that it was good for him to have an out and for them to be able to understand him better.

His favorite merit badge class was Archery. His eyes light up when he tells us about it. He even showed me today the stance when shooting an arrow the right way. I have to admit, he looks pretty studly!

He also loved Indian Folklore and informed that his Weather teacher was a crazy lady. I couldn't get much more out of him about her... "she was just crazy" he said.

When you asked him what he ate he says Ramen and apples. Thank goodness they had Ramen there -- a staple for Brother. And he informed me how happy he was when he smelled the popcorn I sent mid-week. He also told me that he had taco soup. Did he like it? It depends on who asks. It must have been a love-hate relationship.

There was one sad thing he told us.

Someone in another camp called him a "moron." He talked a LOT about this matter the first night he was home. He was very upset. But we talked about people saying things they shouldn't and it didn't matter what he said or thought because his real friends were there for him. I was surprised that I wasn't more upset about it. I think I was just relieved that there was only one person there who could be so naive and insensitive. So, I guess, you could say I was grateful for only the single instance of someone's indiscretion.

On Sunday at church I had moms of the boys who went with Brother tell me how much they loved having Brother there with them and what a difference it made in their experience. His young men leaders let me know how happy he was all through class that day and the camaraderie between him and the other boys.

Marc and I were beaming with happiness and gratitude not only for the friends, neighbors and leaders here but for all the support elsewhere from our family and friends.

It is truly miraculous to watch one young man with a disability bring ability to an entire community. I am so happy to know that not only will all these people touch our lives but, that they will be touched by his life.

The return you receive in serving others cannot be measured, but is rewarding.

Know this, from one parent who receives daily service on behalf of her children,
I cannot express the gratitude we have in our hearts for all the angels in our lives.

3 remarks:

Rochelle said...

Love this!

Paola said...

Oh Rachael this post made me cry, but in a good way!I am so happy for your family, so happy you are surrounded by great people. We still miss your family around here, your bench at church was "taken" by another family but it feels as if you guys are going to come in the door at any minute:) Brother is such an amazing young man, it is not easy to leave home for an entire week! We are so happy and so proud of him! I hope we get to see you some time soon.

Kirsten said...

That's so good to hear!! I'm so happy:)