March 31, 2011

Bonds that will never be broken - Part 1

Spring break in the Rockies is usually beautiful, with blue skies, lots of snow and spring skiing. Aside from the summer, which is my absolute favorite season in Colorado, spring is one of the best seasons out here is ski country.Spring is also the time for visitors, once again something I really enjoy. We moved from IL almost five years ago, but still have close ties including friends and family. This year Sarah came.

Alex will tell you her best friend in the entire world is Sarah. I have written about our friend Sarah Berra in the past. Alex is two years and 355 days older than Sarah, and although they have been apart from each other these five years, Sarah and her older brother Charlie visited us last year.

I have been looking forward to Sarah’s visit since March 2nd, when her mother Maria confirmed her airline reservations. As Sarah is now 14 and a freshman in High School she is comfortable traveling by herself, and although airfare can be a bit steep, her mother was happy to send her. Alex was delighted and after our difficult winter she had something happy to look forward to.

Sarah arrived on a Friday, Alex’s last day before the break. Tom and I went to pick her up at the airport, and she was a sight for sore eyes. Sarah deplaned as a taller, poised and beautiful young lady, not the little Sarah of the past, but a full blown teenager.

Alex joined us after school, with lots of hugs, “I love yous” and a smile that reached the sky.

I must add we had a full house over the break with four other visitors for all or part of the time. Tom goes to Colorado Rocky Mountain School, as a local in a boarding school environment. I mentioned in one of my Thanksgiving entries, that we often host kids that cannot get home for breaks. This year we had Jay from Korea, Jason from China, Sandra from Rwanda and Charinne from NJ. Charinne stayed for only a few days, as she was able to get back home midweek. Traveling to the Aspen area during spring break and especially on weekends can cause bankruptcy. We were happy to help, the more the merrier is my motto.

I asked Sarah and Alex to put a schedule together, in order to incorporate all the activities Sarah wanted to do, and to help keep me on track. One might wonder where Alex got this planning neurosis from…perhaps me?

The week went as follows:

Friday – girls night with Sandra

Whenever we have visitors from out of town we suggest an easy first day. We live at almost 7,000 feet above sea level and within 20 minutes we get to almost 8,500 feet. We insist visitors drink a lot of water and get a good night’s sleep before we venture out. If you are an adult, we preach no alcohol for 48 hours!

The girls had an easy night – spaghetti, salad and “How Do You Know”, which from my perspective was a very dumb movie. So far so good…..

Saturday – “Taking Charge”

Alex’s second of a five Saturday course on self-advocacy, “Taking Charge” happened to coincide with Sarah’s stay. Alex is charged with bringing three people from her “circle”, or three people who will be important to her as she takes charge of her future. Alex’s teacher attended the previous session, but was unavailable this time, due to spring break. John and I are included, per Alex, and now Sarah.

As mentioned, I have known Sarah since she was a twinkle in her parent’s eye. I have seen how she bonded with Alex, and in my own selfish way I believe having Alex as a friend has influenced Sarah’s life in many ways, some I see already and some I will see as she grows up. I thought Sarah would appreciate “Taking Charge” and the opportunity to meet ten other young adults with disabilities. I think I was right.

“Taking Charge” involves a number of hands on activities, a great way for Alex and her peers to learn. This meant we were placed in separate groups and Sarah had to interact with people she had never met before, as well as people with disabilities, some fairly severe. I watched Sarah and saw a tired, but completely engaged young lady, fully participating and helping as needed, She and Alex connected every 30 minutes or so, with a hug and a smile. I was proud of Sarah and how she adapted to such a different environment than the one at home.

It was a long day for all of us. Once again it was a girl’s night with Sandra, dinner at home and a rented movie. John and I went out, and all was quiet on the western front.

Sunday – Aspen, WindWalkers

By Sunday I noticed a change in Alex. She was not quite as attached to Sarah and took more and more breaks to go to her room and listen to music. This did not bother me, and certainly Sarah, my third daughter, was comfortable hanging out with me, or John, and sometimes even Tom. But still, I wondered about Alex.

Boogie's is an Aspen clothing store/diner; a favorite spot for tourists, and Sarah was no exception. Alex is still working on her diet, and although we have had some set-backs I still remind her every meal about healthy eating. After the usual battle about cheeseburgers not being healthy, Sandra, Alex, Sarah and I enjoyed a nice meal. Our planned walk around town was scuttled due to snow, and we headed up to WindWalkers to show Sarah and Sandra the horses.

In retrospect I know Alex needed to have her own time. Alex knows she is different than her peers. I believe that as much as Alex loves Sarah, she had difficulties reconciling this confident young lady with the Sarah of past, the Sarah of coloring books, plays and impromptu haircuts. Alex’s mind brought the memories of this Sarah to our house, not an older and more mature Sarah. Alex cannot vocalize these feelings (yet) and her escapes which became more and more common during Sarah’s visit provided her the time to process and find peace with herself.

I do not find this sad, or surprising, despite having only 46 chromosomes, Sarah is perfect and becoming exactly who she is supposed to become. Alex too is perfect and moving forward to her future, albeit a little slower. I know as Alex grows so will her understanding of her relationship with her peers. Sarah will always be Alex’s best friend, their bonds are too deep.

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday….to be continued!


  1. This evokes a mix of feelings in me! I'm so happy that Alex has such a great friend and love the way you frame things in this post .

  2. Yes,

    it's great that Alex knows herself well to go to timeout.

    And Sarah really stretched herself to be in the person-centred planning with the 10 people.

    Boogie's: a great delight!

  3. Thanks Starrlife and Adelaide! Adelaide - I am curious - you live in Australia but know so much about the US and particulary CO - do you travel here often?


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