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Six weeks ago, the ulcer on Ralph’s leg reopened. This was a deep open wound a little larger than a quarter. Ralph called his doctor and got in the next day. Two days later, he was treated at a wound clinic. It was the beginning of what is likely to be several months of weekly visits to the wound clinic. Painful and expensive visits.

We’ve been down this road before. In the fall of 2005, it started with a small scratch on his leg, which kept developing into a larger and larger sore. Our family physician finally sent him to a wound clinic.

Just when we thought it was healing up, it would open back up the next week, and stay large. This cycle repeated many times. Ralph was frustrated. The doctors were frustrated.It was so discouraging.  The wound did not heal until the fall of 2007.

The pain and discomfort limited our life. Ralph pushed himself to go to work. He pushed himself to take the kids to college and to high school when I couldn’t do it. But if it wasn’t necessary, we didn’t do it. We didn’t go away for weekends. We stopped going camping. If we went to a festival or a fair, Ralph stayed home. Ralph suffered the pain, and I watched him suffer and there was nothing I could do to make it heal faster. We were both discouraged.

But, we gained two important insights from this period in our lives.

1) The work of preparing our kids for independence and supporting themselves gained new urgency and motivation.

2) Despite our difficulties, we needed to actively plan for some sort of respite, even if only for a few hours. I began to plan mini vacations; that is, in my mind I began to think of a vacation in terms of a few hours. We began going to plays, musicals, and concerts. It was a relief to have something to look forward to. And then it was fun to actually enjoy the “vacation.”

I bring this up not because I want others to feel sorry for us; but because I think it is so important for us, the parents of kids with special needs, to begin to prepare our kids for the future when they cannot depend on us. These times of low grade crisis have in the long run helped Will, Mary, and Patty to become more independent, to depend on themselves, each other, and other people. Indeed sometimes, we have needed and received their help.

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