Sunday, July 30, 2006


A few weeks ago, a friend and I planned to pack a picnic and go on the bike trail at Miami Whitewater with our daughters in tow. Driving over to pick her family up, I didn't pay any attention to the rain clouds and pools of water accumulating on the streets. It wasn't even close to being a decent day for a bike trip but there was no question about proceeding because when I pulled in her driveway, her girls were waiting with helmets in hand. This was the sign I needed.

I don't remember how our conversation started but I remember the giggles from the girls in back, the heavy clouds hanging overhead, and the rain pounding on the roof of the car. At some point the conversation up front was going in the direction about why married couples with children who have special needs end in divorce and I think she threw out "90%." It sounded a little too high, but our friendship suddenly transformed into something more private and special after we started taling about the implications of any marriage falling apart for this reason. Our marriages are hardly perfect we agreed. We can count the many times we've considered ending it before saving it. We spent our whole lives preparing for our children without even knowing it. Every little encounter we had with these feelings drew us closer to our children.

It was raining very heavy and I thought I missed the exit so everyone became quiet in the car. It seemed like forever until finally we read the next sign "Miami White Water Park - this exit." I was happy that I didn't have to turn and travel back. The rain slowed down to a slight drizzle as we looked up at the sky to see where the storm was going. Before we got out of the car, we saw a clearing and signs of a Sun peeking through. We heard no thunder so we got ready for the bike trail adventure.While we were setting up the bikes and burleys, I saw a mother fighting an emotion and expression on her face when she realized one of her younger daughter was missing. We called out to the little one scattering behind the few parked cars until we found her peddling toward us calling out "are we ready yet?"

It was difficult to have any conversation throughout the ride beyond how we will manage the next few minutes. At about 3/4 of the way and two hours later, near the marsh, the girls were showing signs of mutiny. Since I could not offer an escape route, I used the park map on the shelter board up ahead to give the girls something more hopeful but tangible to relieve their exhaustion. For the little one, I demonstrated on her arm "the shoulder is where we started and the fingers are where we will end. We are right here" pointing to the wrist.Their discovery became our own victory.

Just as we road into the parking lot, it began to drizzle while more clouds and thunder moved in. We got everything packed up just in time before the downpour. As our daughters' excited conversations continued to fill the car, I kepted my eyes glued on the blurry road while my friend took a call from her husband. I sensed his appreciation for her patience when he heard about their success because the weather to him didn't appear to be cycling weather.

It was her patience, I discovered that day, that qualified her to be in the "ten percent" club. Her patience, which is different from mine, is what helped her decide when to go through the windows of opportunity in her life or through the windows of preparation for another life. I discovered, too, something about myself and why I made up ten percent of the parents with children with special needs.Neither she nor I, bothered to check the weather report that day and taking a rain check never entered our thoughts. The prize, I discovered, was having the ability to see that "90%" of the time, things are going to be okay.

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