Kathie and I recently returned from a trip out West. On this trip we decided to use the Madison River to spread a little of Paul’s carbon around the universe. The name and location seemed right. It is located near the West entrance of Yellowstone Park, on Riverside Drive, in case you find yourself in the area and want to stop by. We have been thinking about Paul’s ashes more recently, and maybe that is a step forward. We don’t spend all of our time on it, but it is kind of a mission to find good places to leave him.
He loved water, and we love the idea of water taking Paul’s elements all over. I enjoy watching his ashes floating away to somewhere, not sure where or what the final destiny will be. So far Grizzly Creek in Colorado and the park in Paoli are other locations. When we travel, Kathie and I often share a look and say “Paul would have loved this” or “We never would have gotten Paul up here”. Sometimes we think, “This would be a good place for him”, and then we talk about leaving some of him there. Each time we leave some ashes, it is a small break from daily life. We take a minute to remember and appreciate. We sit and talk or cry a minute, wondering how we got here. Then we take a picture, pack up and move on. There isn’t anything else to do but move on and take care of each other and Paige. I like to think we move forward a little better off because we took a moment for Paul.
When Paul was alive I like to think that we spread him around all we could. We decided early on that if we were with other people, Paul should be with them and not us, unless he truly needed us. He was with us 24/7, much more than a “normal” kid would be with his parents, so if we had the opportunity to expose him to someone else, we wanted to do that. We thought he was such a great kid that he should be shared. But, a lot of people were uncomfortable at first around a handicapped kid, so sometimes we had to kind of force him on people. We knew he would win them over if we gave him the chance. He always did and one of the things I never get tired of hearing is “Paul changed the way I thought about handicapped people.” I heard it a lot.
I especially remember track being a way that Paul made a big impact. I bought a camera with a big telephoto lens to take photos of him competing and I sat in the stands so I was not hovering over him and he could manage things by himself. The other kids didn’t have their dads hanging around them, so why should Paul. I needed to be with the other parents. I loved hearing what people said about Paul in the bleachers. It was such a rewarding experience to hear people react to Paul racing around the track, usually all by himself. He seldom had other wheelchair competitors until Sectionals or State, so he was often the only wheelchair athlete. “What is that?” “That is so cool!” are things I heard at every meet. He was kind of a pioneer and I was really proud to be his Dad, even though I kept a low profile.
Maybe you are one of Paul’s SB friends reading this, or maybe the parent of a handicapped kid. I want to tell you how important it is to spread yourself around to people who are not aware that you exist. Sharing Paul was a rewarding part of his life, and a rewarding part of my life. Letting people help us was always beneficial for the helper and to us. Seeing how strong Paul could be when we didn’t expect it was even better. You don’t know until you let it happen.
It was easy in a way for us, just put Paul in a position to be himself and magic happened. I trusted him. Leave the room for a few minutes so he had to talk. Send him to camp to meet new people, and he always came back with a bunch of friends. Through sled hockey he made friends all over the Midwest – there is no room for parents or for shyness on the ice. Of course, that is the way it is with all kids, but sometimes kids with disabilities don’t get that same chance. We were lucky that Paul had the health to take those chances. And I continue to be grateful every day for the people reading this and all of the people that gave him the chance to be their friend. I hope to keep spreading Paul around – in every way. He deserves it, and so do the people that got to know him.