An Independence in Stumbling

The kids and I stumbled across their baby books in the attic a short while ago. I forgot that Tiffanni recorded so many of the firsts in them. She catalogued each week for Addyson, and each month for Carsyn. Brayden got a few broad strokes, but he’s there. I was always surprised to see how closely each child’s development mimicked the developmental stages in the books What To Expect When You’re Expecting and What To Expect In The First Year. My kids weren’t as exceptional as I had anticipated.

Tiffanni and I weren’t great about documenting every moment, but she got the big stuff. This generation has their entire lives on a phone screen- my kids have some pictures and a few videos. I might do better to somehow gather all of the video cameras and cell phones from strangers around the world that the kids ended up photo bombing. It would probably inventory their lives better than what we did.

I don’t remember the details of each, but I remember the excitement of the first steps. One of the kids (the truth is that I think I’ve compressed each of their childhoods into one person. Three in one. My children, the trinity) went straight from laying, full body on the ground, and rolling everywhere to walking. Those first steps, for a year or more, were wobbly and uncoordinated. They spent so much time on the ground with plenty of scrapes and band-aids.

I know all of us have baffled at the idea of falling as much as a child, but getting up, dusting off, and continuing on undeterred. But walking means so much. It’s not just duplicating an action of adults. It’s the entryway to independence. The first action of autonomy. It changed everything when the kids starting walking. We had to “baby proof” the house. They touched and explored everything. We couldn’t take our eyes off of them for a minute or they would paint the walls, pee in the kitchen pots, and toilet paper the house. Soon walking turned to running and skipping and jumping and climbing. Walking became dancing and jogging and running bases and riding bicycles and swimming and cartwheels and diving. And one day it will become driving and dating and graduating and walking the aisle and pushing a baby carriage. That first step opens nearly every door to the future.

I’ve fought for years to keep Tiff out of a wheelchair. It takes work. Lately, I practically carry her. The last two trips to the movies, we used a wheelchair. For some unfortunate reason, the movie that we want to see is always at the end of the long theater hall. It’s easily 100 yards from the bathroom to the theater and that doesn’t even count the walk from the car. I pulled it out the first time and she looked at me puzzled. “Let’s just get you in and I’ll help you to your seat.”

“No. I don’t want a wheelchair,” she said to me. Talk about ripping your heart out.

“Me neither, but I can’t carry you that far. My arms hurt from just walking into Dairy Queen.” She acquiesced.

I wheeled her in, got her to the bottom of the theater seating and asked her to jump on for a piggy back ride. She laughed and I scooped her up and hauled her frail frame up the steps to our normal seats- top third, middle. There are rarely people behind us there that I have to worry about what they think about all of her moving and if we are too distracting.

I have slowly begun to use the wheelchair for long hauls. Like the ballpark or church. Those places that I just can’t quite carry or it’s too painful to watch her fall over and over, even if I do stop the impact. I’ve never needed or dreaded something more.

The significance of walking is more than just the use of her legs. Because when she can’t walk anymore, she is fully dependent. Even in a wheelchair, she doesn’t have the ability to push herself using her arms. Everything changes.

So she falls. Over and over again because it’s the price of independence. There is always a price for independence, always a sacrifice. Hers are bruises and scrapes and cuts and headaches and body pangs and band-aids and soreness. Whether she knows it consciously or subconsciously, the next transition costs a lot. Every day she asks for Tylenol, every day she falls again. A vicious cycle just to walk- but not really walk, stumble. All of the possibility that the first step opened, the last step closes. It’s a high price to pay to stumble. But at this point, stumbling is everything.

17 Comments for “An Independence in Stumbling”

Carol Cooper

says:

not knowing you personally, I don’t know all of Tiffanni’s limitations. But would it give her more independence in a motorized chair? God bless you all.

says:

You both get an A+. Thank you for sharing the “journey” with us. She is a determined little lady, and that is serving her well right now. And you papa bear are doing an awesome job, caregiving, parenting, husbanding, pastoring, and the other million, little things you do in your spare time.
God bless you and your family as always, prayers continuing

says:

Jeremy, I cannot begin to know how you and Tiffany seem to be living life as near to the fullest as possible. I did have a first cousin who was really more like my brother, and he had MS for about 10 or 12 years. I remember his coming to the school to pick up his sun who would always find a pain of some kind or put on his dying cow look and his father be called. Of course, when he got into the office, that sick kid who had convinced his fifth grade teacher that he was so sick that he was too dizzy to walk down the hall by himself. When he would have lain on the sofa in the office for about one or two minutes he would start asking what I was doing and what this or that thing was. Oops! I started out talking about his dad’s time of gradually moving from someone who limped to someone who was bedridden. Anyway, remembering watching Sam all those years, gave me a reference point (sorta) as I read this. I pray for you and your family because anything like this is a family situation. I’m glad Tiff has you for her husband because you have God’s strength in you and seem to know just how to face each new situation. Of course, you face it as you follow the Lord. God bless you.

says:

I’m encouraged that Tiffanni continues to try and get up and move forward. I also empathize with you, Jeremy, in your display of painful patience, allowing your wife to endure in these difficult activities which somehow truly do bring her spirit peace. The journey is filled with bumps and turns designed to cause us to stumble into the arms of Jesus. Tiffanni is surely getting extra practice in learning to fall into God’s promise that in Him, we will always rise again. Blessings on your continued journey.
“The LORD upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭145:14‬ ‭NIV‬‬
“I was pushed back and about to fall, but the LORD helped me.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭118:13‬ ‭NIV‬‬
“Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭63:7-8‬ ‭NIV‬‬
“For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭41:13‬ ‭NIV‬‬
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:7-9‬ ‭NIV‬‬
“Two are better than one… If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.”
‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭4:9-10‬ ‭NIV
“Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light.”
‭‭Micah‬ ‭7:8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Mario Jimenez

says:

Always brings a tear to my eye. I remember you two in college. In deep admiration of each other. love. Love is what is rooted in all of your posts. I know you have tough days and small victories. But please always remember Love. The love she has had for you since that first summer camp. That love you had for her in college. We all whitenesd it.
I love you two for it.
Blessing to you Jerm. Blessing my friend.
-MJ

Jeremy Sims

says:

Hey hermano! I’d love to see you. What’s the chance that you’re ever down this way? I hate that I missed you in DC last spring.

says:

So proud of you and the strength you have developed. Tiffiny is the sweetest young lady in the world. I saw her mother go through the same and watched her dad exhibit the same strength and love. I admire you and pray for the Lord’s strength and care for you both.

Tracey McDonald

says:

I took my 3 boys to the arcade today and Bryant asked me if he could get out of his chair to play…it broke my heart, even though he is 15 and has never walked unassisted! Walking is huge…but overrated when compared to some things! The love you two
share and the family you’ve created far trumps walking!

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