In Our Wheelhouse

Wil sat down in the outfield. A bead of sweat slowly slid down the side of his pink cheek. The outfield was made of rubber; I’m sure it felt like a cushiony relief to him. Wil gets overheated very easily. I placed an icepack I had carried with me on the back of his neck. 

At his previous Challenger baseball game, Wil played 2nd and 3rd base. The weather was cooler and my parents were spectating, so he had plenty of showing off to do. Wil ran after every ball and threw it to his coach on the pitcher’s mound without hesitation. (The coach is diligent about Wil stopping, taking a step and throwing. Wil is equally diligent about following those instructions.) 

A batter in a wheelchair bunted the ball and her sister grabbed the handles of the wheelchair and ran her to first base. The next batter runs every base in a single hit, no matter where his ball lands. Sure enough, after he hit the ball, he tapped all the bases (passing those already on base), then sped across home plate. He raised his arms in success and the spectators cheered. The next batter stepped up to plate and the inning would continue until every player made it home. 

When a strong hitter came up to bat, the coach asked everyone in the outfield to back up. Wil didn’t budge. A father, who had been standing near us with his son, walked over and crouched down to talk to Wil. The father then reached out his hand, Wil took it and stood up, then we all walked deeper into the outfield. 

I thanked him and he said, “It’s always easier when it’s not coming from Mom or Dad. Music is the only thing that motivates my son. Some days I swear I have constant music playing on my phone.” 

Last Sunday at our Down Syndrome Support Team picnic, Elizabeth and I walked by a boy of about 10 years old. He was walking backwards with his arms spread out wide. His younger sister, a cute blond with pigtails, was trying to run past the width of her brother’s arms and escape to the parking lot. Their parents were a few feet behind them packing up their belongings.  

The boy smiled at us and said, “One thing I don’t like about Down syndrome is they don’t listen!” 

Elizabeth and I laughed. “We know exactly how that is,” I said. “I think we’ve chased her brother at least one thousand times!” 

I find it incredibly refreshing, rejuvenating actually, to be in places where our kids can be themselves without stares, sideways glances or need for explanation. No matter how diverse or similar our children’s disabilities are, there is an underlying understanding. Though you can feel it on the inside, on the outside, it is seen in gestures such as an outstretched hand, cheers for home runs (in any order), and laughs about siblings. 

Kindness, I have found, looks quite “typical” in any place it is shared.

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