February 17, 2010

Lincoln 2010 - Update 2

When Alex was little, I anxiously awaited all her milestones. I was a new parent of a child with down syndrome, and did not really know what to expect. I wanted to know everything in advance; when will she smile, turn over, crawl and walk. As these milestones were met, I waited for the next ones; talking, understanding simple directions, reading and math skills.

All these milestones and more have been met. The earlier milestones happened at age appropriate times, the delays came later. In retrospect, I wish I had not been so anxious, Alex can do everything a “normal” child can do, her timing is just a little different. I knew this, as other parents had told me, but like all of us, we needed to learn ourselves.

My latest milestone and one that cannot be compared to any “normally” developing child revolves around the National Special Olympic Games. Although technically not a milestone, this event is the next achievement in Alex’s life for me. This is really a bit rhetorical, as I know the answer. We will all be going to Lincoln, NE in mid-July for the Games.

Knowing the answer to this milestone date has not alleviated my impatience around the arrival of the month of July. I find myself looking at the next few months in terms of their relationship to July. The National Special Olympic Games have become the focus of all my summer planning and my day dreams. I know the games will not disappoint Alex and I, unlike the basketball season.

I love the Olympics, and we have been spending a lot of time in front of the TV watching the winter games. One of my favorite sayings around the Olympics is: “the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat”. To watch these athletes participate at the highest levels of their sports, to focus their minds and bodies on success, is to me the highest achievement a person can attain. To want something so badly and to strive for only victory is the biggest triumph I can imagine.

Alex has already participated in a number of regional and state Special Olympic competitions. I know how incredible these competitions are for the athletes and the spectators. This weekend she will be competing in the slalom event at the regional winter games. She will be the only athlete going from the Ninos, due to scheduling conflicts, and is looking forward to representing her team.

I have seen the pride and intense happiness of Special Olympic Athletes when they compete. In many ways, I find this even more rewarding than watching “regular” athletes. Special Olympic athletes have to be able to compete beyond their disabilities, to work harder and in many cases dream bigger than most other athletes. To me, a Special Olympic athlete in one of the most inspiring athletes I can imagine.

I do not know whether or not Alex will win a medal at the National Games, and I do not really care. I care that she will be representing her state in such an honorable event. I know she will be proud and will try her hardest. She will be excited with all the hoopla and her smile will light up my life. This is my wish for her; fulfillment and pride in who she is and what she has accomplished.

However, this does not help time fly, and we are still months away from the Olympics. Thankfully, we have received recent updates, so I do not have to pinch myself to make sure I am not dreaming. We have heard from both the CO Special Olympic Committee as well as the National Special Olympic Committee. Registrations, sign-ups and fund raising are my new tasks.

I have registered our family for the Games, and we will all get “credentials”. So exciting, John, Courtney, Tom and I will wear tags saying we are on Alex’s team. We were only allotted two tickets for the opening and closing ceremonies, but it was explained that big TVs will be set-up across Lincoln for all family member and visitors expected in Lincoln. I signed John and I up for both ceremonies; we will each give up one of our tickets for the ceremonies, as everyone in our posse will want to attend.

We have also heard about training camp. Alex will be going to Colorado Springs, which I believe is the site of one of the Olympic training camps, in mid-April for three days. We have heard from her coach, Larry, and have begun to actively fund raise for the team. I think all the pieces are in place for Alex, and me.

So I wait, but I know in 129 days and 23 hours we will get into our car and drive the nine hours to Lincoln, NE. Alex will have already arrived with her team, and we will become part of Alex’s team. She will no longer be the kid with down syndrome in our family. She will become the athlete representing the State of Colorado in the National Games. I can not wait!

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