Making It All the Way to the Top! – by Cara Potapshyn Meyers
This past weekend was my son’s ninth birthday party at an indoor rock climbing facility. I have wanted to learn to rock climb for at least twenty years. An awful car accident almost 17 years ago, coupled with a prolonged, but temporary disability of my right arm, killed my dream and my desire. Even with years of physical therapy and both traditional as well as Eastern medicine, I was never back to baseline. It did, however, give me back some quality of life, which I am immensely thankful for.
As my son has grown, (and grown, and grown!), so has his love of everything activity related. I am finding that if I want to keep a grasp on these last few years of childhood, bonding with my son, I have to try to become more participatory in the activities my son enjoys. As much as I love to sit on the floor with him and play board games or put together Legos, my son is drawn to increasing his activity repertoire and has either mastered some of these activities already or is simply a natural born athlete whose abilities are practically second nature for him.
Since we knew we were planning on having my son’s birthday party at the rock climbing facility, my twinkle of desire began to emerge. I was told by rock climbing professionals that your lower body should do almost all of the work, to successfully rock climb. Your arms are simply to help guide and balance. After learning that handy bit of information, I thought to myself, “If I spend the next several months working on building up the strength and stamina of my lower body, I could climb at least one wall at my son’s birthday party.” So, along with my FitBit buddy, I started out slowly, but soon was walking up 25 – 30+ staircases daily, jogging against the current at my local pool and walking 50+ blocks on the streets of Manhattan. Anything and everything to build up my lower body strength. I could tell it was working. I was flying up staircases in a single bound! Okay, we won’t go that far…you get the picture.
The week of my son’s actual birthday and party arrived. Unfortunately I was unable to continue with my activities due to a medical problem which left me weak and fatigued. Would I still be able to climb a rock wall? Would I, once again, be sidelined due to another unexpected medical issue? It wasn’t that I would be disappointing my son, I would be highly dismayed that I wouldn’t be able to participate on my son’s exciting day, wearing a “Rock Climbing Mom” T-shirt, having bought my own rock climbing shoes, and “training” so relentlessly for this day. My heart was beyond heavy.
Two days before the party, I was resigned that I just couldn’t do it. I had been severely dehydrated, hadn’t eaten solid food the whole week, and in bed a great deal of the time. I would wear my special T-shirt, but hosting the party was about all I was up to taking on. Then, something special and exciting happened!
That same day, we received reports from the school’s Standardized Testing my son had taken in April. Knowing my son has a severe disability in Speech and Language, I didn’t put any pressure on my son regarding the tests. In fact I practically dismissed it entirely in my head. It was a non-entity. Once school was over for the summer, I honestly forgot about the tests. Well, New York State didn’t forget about them. They sent my son’s scores in the mail. To my absolute amazement (and wonder whether my son’s scores had been confused with another child’s), my son scored 10 points away from the highest scoring category! In the English section!! My son was overjoyed and bounced around the room when I told him! I was suddenly lifted out of my despair and was joining my son in his elation! Then he asked if he could go out to eat that night at Benihana, his favorite restaurant. My husband was unable to go, but I wanted to reward this child immediately! I told him the two of us would go. To make the dinner even more of a celebration, I told our waitress that it was my son’s birthday (which really wasn’t untrue…his birthday was four days prior).
Since I still had trouble eating solid foods, and my son was so hungry he could have eaten the table. I gave most of my meal to my son, which he heartily polished off, while I ate the broth-like soup and my son’s birthday ice cream (no, my son doesn’t eat ice cream. He just loves blowing out the candle!). The smile on my son’s face as our entire table sang, “Happy Birthday” to him almost brought tears to my eyes! I kissed and hugged him, then ate his ice cream, lol! The spell of illness that had been hanging over me like a cloud had dissipated! If I could tolerate the broth and ice cream, maybe, just maybe, I could try to get enough food in me to give me the energy to climb even a third of a rock wall! I was becoming hopeful!
The day of the party arrived. I spent the day before carefully picking and choosing the foods I could eat and making sure I was well hydrated. I watched the children scurry up the rock walls like it was nothing. Even another Mom joined in the fun. I brought my rock climbing shoes, “just in case,” but left them in the car. I decided I was going to try to climb, since pizza was going to be served soon. I quickly donned my rock climbing shoes, got a belt, and went to the most knowledgable instructor. He told me that he would slowly “walk” me through the climbing process and that before I knew it, I would be at the top.
I started pushing with one foot, until standing. Then with my other foot. Only using my arms for guidance and balance. One foot, stand…other foot, stand. Reach, reach. I was climbing! I kept going and going. Amazed friends were taking photos. When I looked down, my fear of heights kicked in, but I quickly looked up. The top was so close. I was rock climbing!!
Finally!! After so many years, and as a birthday present to myself, I climbed a rock wall!! Once again, my son’s party felt like my own! Three birthday achievements in one week! Last week, I thought that nothing could make me happier than to blow out candles with my son! Now I have to include one other…I finally learned to rock climb! Add this to the list of activities my son and I are going to continue to do together!
Who said getting older can’t be fun!?! Truly, nothing could now make my birthday any more special! Nor more fun!