Watching them walk the Greenway I can’t help but think back over the countless steps that my boys have made on this very trail. Hiking has always been something they’ve done together. Until this year, Jack could go for hours and keep up with anyone. Now his pace is slow and difficult for whoever is helping him.
Hop, hop, step, hop, step, hop, hop, hop, step. Jack spends more time bouncing than moving forward. Sometimes it takes him a few minutes to move just a dozen yards. And, it’s not just on the trails. Getting him to the car can be difficult and taking him down the isles of a grocery store is becoming a marathon.
It’s been a few months since Jack introduced this new gait. At first we thought it was an extension of the Flamingo Dance and almost applauded it, but we quickly grew frustrated. It makes the simplest activities arduous and can quickly take the fun out of adventures. His therapists and teachers noticed it too and everyone has tried everything to get Jack’s steps to find their old rhythm. Weights on his ankles, weights on his hands, braces – nothing seems to be working.
Dan and I are trying to stay confident that there will be a simple resolve and we can go back to our old hiking days, but we’re starting to get concerned. Generally, Jack is doing quite well. Improvements have outweighed setbacks for years. We weren’t prepared for this. It’s frustrating and unsettling that we have a new issue that we can’t seem to easily fix. Like all of Jack’s complications, this new challenge is not easy or typical. ALD can cause brains to short circuit. Behaviors can quickly become habits that are difficult to reverse. We have a great team working on it, but I’m feeling like we’re bracing ourselves for the fact that this might be part of our “normal”. We really wanted to stop adding to our catalog of not so normal normals.
Added on top of frustration and worry, I find myself feeling guilty complaining about walking issues. At Jack’s school, wheelchairs are as common as backpacks. Jack’s mobility is something revered – even at it’s new, slow pace. It seems petty to whine about something that others covet. Frustration, worry, guilt – not a great blend of emotions for a summer day on Block Island.
Luckily Jack’s smile slaps me back to the reality and I remember that we have a lot to be thankful for. Besides occasional reminders that ALD still lingers, our month away has been wonderful. Time with friends and family, hours a day in the sand and surf, festive meals and beautiful sunsets. That walk/hop/bounce on the Greenway took 46 minutes and we only managed a half mile. We are off to the beach this afternoon. Who needs hiking?!?