What do you say when someone builds you a house? It’s seems preposterously small to just say thank-you.
I suppose I could write it in the sky in billows of airplane smoke to show the magnitude of our gratitude; or I could cry big sloppy tears to express the depth of this feeling; I could tattoo my arm to show you this isn’t a passing thought. Would you hear me better if I wrote an acrostic? You know – T is for the time you gave H for all the hard work, A for accessibility and N for… never mind.
This project took many hands and many gifts. We’re thankful for every last one of them. It would not have gotten off the ground without the three team leaders. Sue, like many people who come into our lives, asked how she could help. She was persistent and did not go away when I said, “It’s all good. We’ve got this.” She finally got out of me that the bathroom was a death trap of potential brain injury for Aidan and wouldn’t accept that it was a problem without a solution. Sue approached Talley, who with her bulldog tenacity said, “Oh, we’re gonna fix that.” She used her enthusiasm and networking skills to get people involved. Talley approached Jason the Builder to get some ideas. Not only did Jason see a solution to the problem, he committed himself to the project. Unbeknownst to any of us, Jason had been wanting to use his professional skills to give back to the community. Because of his stellar professional reputation, he was able to bring many contractors to the table. Sue, Talley, and Jason birthed this plan, invited you to be part of it, and saw it through to the finish, this amazing finish, and we are deeply grateful to them.
I also want to say thank-you to two people whom I actually stand here to represent. Liam, like me, would be completely happy to be locked in a room of books forever. He was flexible in the chaos, helpful with construction, and respectful to people who came to work. Since teenagers aren’t always known for those qualities I want to say thank-you to Liam for rising to the occasion. And thank-you to Garreth who simultaneously used his CNA skills to help Aidan recover from surgery, his finish cabinetry skills to work on the house, and his amazing husband skills to keep me sane. While you may have heard the unhelpful and inaccurate statistic that couples raising a child with a disability get divorced at an astronomical rate, all of our numerous pressure tests have made Garreth and I more unified.
This building project re-inforced some essential truths that I’ve learned mostly from raising Aidan.
First, see the possibilities. This project started with me NOT seeing a solution which is why I’m so glad that Sue, Talley, and Jason did. We hit a few snags along the way and had to be flexible. At times this project felt too big to finish. This was no easy task but we stand here today with it completed because you saw the potential for safe, accessible housing for Aidan.
Second, humor is a survival technique. Those of us affected by disability often joke about things that may seem inappropriate. There has been much laughter in this project. Yes, Garreth answered the door in his underwear at 10pm after he had just come home from the hospital, and yes, I sang me some Neil Diamond karaoke on the stage of my open living room, and yes, what happens at Lowes, Sue, stay at Lowes.
Finally, and most importantly, everyone has something to give. Everyone. This project took money, time, professional skills, sweat equity, food, publicity, encouragement, and so much more. There was room for everyone. We are grateful to each of you. I hope that you walk away feeling valued and appreciated. Take this moment to recognize how good it feels to say, “I participated. I gave. I’m part of something.” You can find someone who may not have that experience and create a space for them to belong.
So instead of a tattoo or sky-writing, I’ll say thank-you by telling you what you really gave us. Yes, in the most foundational sense, you built us a house. What that really means is that Aidan is safe in his own home, especially the bathroom, which is essential to daily living. He is also able to go wherever he wants in the house. Aidan can now maneuver his wheelchair around freely. He can go bug his brother, wheel away from his dad, take stuff down from the tables. You gave him independence.
Lastly, and most importantly, you showed us that we aren’t alone. Raising a child with a disability if often isolating and overwhelming. It just is. There was one moment of this project that captured the essence of this gift for me. It was Saturday March 9th. Aidan had just had major orthopedic surgery and Garreth and I were at the hospital with him. Being at the hospital is like being on another planet. We were far removed from the house project. Garreth and I were sitting in the hallway outside Aidan’s room, hoping that he would sleep. We were watching his monitors because his heart rate had been low. The alarm for the entire wing was right above our heads. We hadn’t seen fresh air or real food in awhile. We were anxious, stressed, and tired. This is our medical journey, the one only we as Aidan’s parents can take with him. Garreth and I sat together looking through the photos that Sue sent us from the day. There had been blue skies, sledge hammers, a feast, and smiley happy faces here at our home. It had been another productive work day. Because you were here, lifting this piece of our burden, we were free to focus on Aidan’s immediate needs.
You built this house. You built this community. We stand here humbled, grateful and amazed.
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