The hills are steeper, but the kids are just the same.
It's been years since I've been here, and I have to admit I'm a little nervous. I'm nervous about spending the day in the heat, sweating out of my leg, and tripping over tree roots.
But I'm also nervous about being back.
I wore sandals today, figuring the kids would get a kick out of my pedicure. But a few steps down the rocky road to the dining hall, I have a change of heart -- and shoes. I turn around and hike 20 yards back up the hill to the car to put on my sneakers.
Sneakers were always the rule at camp. Now I know why.
At the bottom of the hill, a bunch of 7-year-old girls gather around, oohing and ahhing over my "robot leg." They bombard me with questions. Then, with equal excitement, they spy the camp's therapy dog Brealey, and race off to play with him. In a flash, my Genium and I are old news. (What did you expect? They're kids!)
|So great to see old friends again!!|
It's been a while.
Today, director Patty has invited me back to share my story with the preteen and teen campers, and the 17-year-old "Leaders in Training."
|Coincidentally, there's even a|
trauma doc in the group --
Like always, I mention the importance of wearing bike helmets. I show the kids my Genium and pass around my water leg so they can take a closer look. We talk about what it's like to be an amputee, the pros and cons of different prostheses, and the steps one takes to learn to walk again.
They ask lots of great questions. Can you wear high heels? How do you shower? Why doesn't it look like a real leg? What if the battery runs out?
To show them the charging pad, I press the rotator button and flip my leg completely upside down. They gasp, and then crack up!
In many ways, it's like talking to any group of school kids.
But this group digs deeper.
Were you depressed? they ask. How did you get through it? How long did it take? Do you still miss your leg? Do you think about it every day?
This year that wall is dedicated to Amber, whom I still picture as a dark-haired, dark-eyed 10-year-old in my cabin. She loved getting dressed up, trying on make-up, and being a star. A natural leader, at 12, she organized a "strike" from her top bunk to protest a long, hot hike to the lake. Through many summers, I watched her grow. Her personality was so dynamic, her smile so full of light, it's hard to believe she's gone.
Coming here today, I worried that maybe my loss wasn't significant enough. That it might not be connected or meaningful enough for the kids to relate to.
But it turns out, loss is loss.
So I answer their questions the best I can. I tell them what I've learned along this journey, things most of them know already.
"You don't get through loss. You don't overcome it. You just learn to live with it."
I tell them how it feels. Today. To be back at camp again. Beyond the physical challenge, I realize there's something else. I'm thrilled to be here. But it reminds me of my old life. It makes me miss who I was before.
They nod. They get it.
These kids may be experts at loss, but they're also experts at LIVING.
I've brought along a new batch of Thousand Miles wristbands in "glow-in-the dark" green. With Sharpie markers the kids write their own goals and dreams on the wristbands. Wearing a reminder on my wrist has helped me work toward my goals, so maybe it'll help them too.
When we finish up, several kids and counselors ask me if I'll come back next year. Not just as a visitor, but as a counselor or village chief -- like old times.
When I shrug vaguely, they push further, "WHY NOT?"
With this group, it's hard to say no. I can't really think of a good excuse. While it's tough to plan in advance, part of me wants to sign up right now.
We all know dreams are fleeting.
You have to catch them when you can.
Thanks to Patty and the rest of the Dreamcatcher team for such a warm welcome! Hope to see you next year!