My oldest son, Caleb, was born with some disabilities. The most significant of these is his visual impairment. Caleb can read large print, and make his way around a computer quite well. (He can type way faster then me, but I admit that’s not a terribly impressive feat.) Though Caleb has faced more physical challenges than most throughout his life, by hard work, faith, and perseverance he has often managed to surpass everyone’s expectations.
Mollie remembers teaching Caleb the routine task of learning to tie his shoes when he was a toddler. For Caleb (and Mollie) this became a character building experience. It took over a year. This has proved to be somewhat predictive of how Caleb’s life would be as he grew older – things that others take for granted are much harder, but usually not impossible, for him.
We generally haven’t tried to hold Caleb back from anything he’s wanted to do. In high school, Caleb’s favorite teacher happened to coach track, so Caleb decided he wanted to go out for the track team. When he told me this, I was concerned that he would only frustrate and embarrass himself. (In addition to being blind, Caleb has mild cerebral palsy on his right side, which affects his coordination.) I privately spoke to the coaches to see if they really thought it would be a good idea for Caleb to “compete” on the track team, and to be sure they understood this would mean more work for them as coaches. They assured me that they would watch Caleb’s back.
Once track season was in full swing, I went to a track meet where Caleb was slotted to run in the 800 meter race. I watched with very mixed emotions as the gun went off and Caleb was left behind; farther behind than he could’ve known. It was the best he could do to simply stay in his own running lane. At one point he strayed off the track, and a teammate ran over and helped to guide him back onto the track. By that point, the race was already over for everyone else. As a dad, I listened for the crowd’s response, expecting to hear snickering.
Instead something beautiful happened.
As the crowd realized what was going on, both sides spontaneously began to cheer him on. A huge smile broke out on Caleb’s face. As he approached the finish line, cartoonishly late, people were standing up, clapping, and cheering. For Caleb the event was not about winning. It was about being on the team and finishing the race.
I want to publicly thank Coach Heyrman and Coach Q for going the extra mile with Caleb during his Loveland High School years.
Mom to the Rescue
This brings me to today. Caleb is trying to run a different sort of race, and I’m hoping the crowd will support him again. Caleb is now 28 years old. He could live off of government aid programs for the rest of his life and play computer games all day. However, he hopes to be independent and get a job to support himself. After graduating high school, he spent two years at the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind. Since then, he has been a student at Colorado State University in Ft. Collins, Colorado. It has been predictably difficult for him, and he has had to maintain a light course-load. One year he was on academic probation after getting some bad counsel and taking physics and calculus in the same semester. (Had it been me, I would also have ended up on probation!) He’s had to modify his hopes of majoring in Forestry three times in order to find an emphasis with requirements he can actually fulfill.
During the last academic year, Caleb’s Vocational Rehabilitation caseworker on campus quit and was replaced by someone new. This happens fairly frequently as the Voc Rehab caseload is very heavy and there is a high caseworker turnover rate. Caleb made contact with the new person, but despite his best efforts, she missed the deadline for submitting his paperwork on time. Consequently, Caleb cannot afford to attend school this fall, his senior year. (His last three years were also his senior year, but he is scheduled to finish this coming year.) He is simply trying to finish school.
Unfortunately, this comes at a bad time for Mollie and me. So what we’re doing, since we can’t help him much financially, is this: Mom has come to the rescue! Mollie has set up a crowd-funding campaign. Everyone who contributes 25$ or more to the campaign will be entered in a drawing to win one of her paintings – one entry for every $25. It’s a very cool semi-abstract painting from her Jacob’s Ladder series, entitled, “All About the Ladder.” (I’m kind of bummed that she’s letting it go, because its one of my favs. See the painting below.) Having said that, I realize that people are primarily contributing to help Caleb. But it wouldn’t hurt to win some nice art as well, right?
We’re getting very close! There are only a few days left in the campaign. We send our heartfelt thanks for those of you who choose to lend support. Here is THE LINK for those who are interested: