The Village People

Four inches. That’s one inch for each season over the last twelve months- Fall, Winter, Spring, and finally Summer. He was devastated when he stood under the green mark at Goliath last year and it was obvious that he was two inches short- and that was with his tall shoes on. “Sorry, you’re not quite there yet champ.” I could sense the disdain that Brayden collected in his heart for each of the teenage gatekeepers doing their jobs. But not this year. Four inches in a year catapulted him into the Ride-It-All Group. So he did.

Six Flags has made its way into tradition with my crew. We’ve gone every summer for several years now and the kids look forward to it. Tiff starts asking about it by October. They count down the days and catalog the rides by name. I had to tell the girls last year to take it easy talking about the attractions that Brayden couldn’t ride because he wasn’t tall enough yet. Goliath, Batman, Superman, DareDevil- every young boy’s dream. I also had to tell them to stop talking about the Teacups, you know, the one he was plenty tall enough to ride. Why couldn’t it just be named Deathtrap or Tilt-a-Torture. Something that would allow him to keep his man card.

We spend a bazillion dollars every June to spend a single day at Disney, the Happiest Place on Earth, and all the kids talk about all year is Six Flags. They’re practically giving away tickets. The kids’ school gave them free tickets for reading books throughout the last school year. Reading books. Isn’t that like a requirement at school. And then Tiffanni and I got half-priced tickets just for breathing.

But Six Flags is hard. Whoever laid it out apparently worked for the US Government’s Health Initiative. There are no flat areas, it’s all peaks and valleys, summits and fjords. Which is hard enough walking all day in the blazing asphalt desert heat, but we’ve got a wheelchair. I hate it, but it’s wheelchair or nothing. Tiffanni’s balance is worse than ever so it’s her only reprieve. Now I’m an eternal optimist, but I don’t know how to stay positive with three young children, a disabled wife, a wheelchair, and a day in the Sahara. So I call in the big guns. My brother and sister and their spouses.

My greatest fear throughout the process of this disease is that my kids would miss out on something. And then missing out on something would scar them or inhibit them. Doing double duty on “Dad, watch this,” and “Guess what we did today,” and “Dad, we need to talk,” is a job for two loving parents. There’s this brilliant design where parents nurture their kids’ dreams and talents and personalities and the kids have the greatest shot at health and stability. But sometimes it just doesn’t work out. It rocks me some days. I just can’t do it. I’m sure there are super hero single parents out there that fill all of the gaps, but I’m not that. Far from it.

So I don’t. I don’t fill all of the gaps. I don’t even fill most of them. Because the greatest gift that I have ever received are the gap fillers in my life. The cookers and cleaners, attention givers and school shoe buyers, dream nurturers and problem listeners, clothes shoppers and dessert makers, grass cutters and clothes washers, meal preparers and cart-the-kids-all-over-the-world drivers, ball game watchers and house builders, pastors and Sunday School teachers, “just because” gift givers and school project helpers, hair cutters and braid tie-ers, sports coaches and swim lesson givers, and Six Flags kid ride partners and wheelchair pushers. It takes a village to raise kids with health and stability. Where they don’t miss out on anything even though they’re missing out on so much. It takes a village to fill all of the gaps and make sure that kids never doubt that they are loved deeply and cherished daily.

So when my family needed a village, they got the best. This is my village. And these are my people.