We moved to Texas in July of 2012 after another trip to Hawaii. Ridge started 6th grade and this school had 6th in the elementary school. I was so very thankful because as much improvement as we had seen, Ridge was still very immature and I was not sure he was ready for middle school. Maddie started 10th grade and Colt was still at UF.
We signed him up for YMCA football that summer and because he had played before, it was an easier task. He was still nervous but the coaches were kind and supportive and this helped him to connect to the new town.
The team of teachers was excellent. He had a male science teacher that told me later that his file had scared all of them at his new school ! They were afraid of all the issues that documented who he was. Very quickly they ignored the file and for a change, Ridge was accepted 100%. Those teachers were more angels on the path.
I met with them with a power point to share his background. The very intelligent special ed teacher met with Ridge and asked him how she could support him and he asked her to leave him alone. He told her that he wanted to appear normal and that as long as he could manage, he would like to try to make it without any other help. She respected his opinion and he held up his end and was successful.
He was even knighted for his honesty in a school ceremony. It was sort of the fairy tale ending that he never believed could happen. It was such a beautiful moment when life is better than your dreams!
Middle school was easier than I could have imagined. Football provided structure and the exercise that would leave him in an elevated mood. Ridge was strong and good at blocking. He was put on the A team and the other boys liked him. They even gave him the ball in one game in a secret “Jumbo” play.
It is a good thing because I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer on Thanksgiving of 2013 when Ridge was in 7th grade. My oldest son had just graduated from college at UF and was without a job. I asked him to move home to help me and to drive the kids around. He accepted and it was another godsend.
I have never been so angry before. I knew that my many years of anger and struggle had probably reduced my resistance and caused my disease but I had tried so hard to prevent this. I exercised, didn’t drink or smoke, attended spiritual retreats, studied self help books, etc. I had taken the role of mom and therapist and worked really hard to keep the family together. This just seemed so unfair. I had known something was wrong for about 6 months and went through a family doctor , a gynocologist and even an oncologist that told me nothing was wrong. It was sort of like what I went through with Ridge all over again but this time on myself. Hearing the news was not good and only got worse when I went to MD Anderson.
Chemo was really hard for me and I could not help anyone. I could not walk for a while. I had diverticulitis. The pain was like labor all day for weeks. Tim was gone off to a military exercise that was important to him. It was the worst time in my life. People would send cards and my mom sent little packages. Maddie’s dance team parents even brought food over. The pain and anxiety sent me to a very dark and paranoid place. I had never been in a place that I lost all faith but here I was.
People can’t help you much when you are so sick. I realized that I had been giving way too much for a long time and that I had to depend on others. The kids had never thought about me not being there. It was a time of survival for everyone. Ridge didn’t ask me for help or scream at me to fix things very often. I remember him peeping in the bedroom and then throwing me a piece of candy one afternoon. He had no idea how he could help. I didn’t either but at least he tried.
He wrote me a very beautiful birthday card that year that said:( as written with errors)
Mom, you have always been the best parent a kid could ask for. You have always helped me in any way you could never asking for any thang in return. I know that without you I could never be where I am now. What you are facing must be scary but I want you to know that I will be there for you. I hope you have a grate B-day and I love you mom always have and always will.
, Your son Ridge
It was the best birthday ever. I completed the chemo, had a modified mastectomy(my sister flew out to be my personal nurse) and spent the summer having radiation. Thank God Ridge was so stable. Maddie had been overly stressed at school and college acceptance pressure was intense.
Radiation was completed in Houston and I started feeling better and better. The kind radiology therapist made me feel like I was on vacation. Being able to eat and not having pain was heavenly. As soon as I was able, Maddie and I boarded a plane to visit my mother in Florida. She was dying and we got to spend some quality time with her. We knew it may be our last time together and it was a hard goodbye.
In the fall, Colt started a CrossFit gym here in Boerne and my mom got to see the photos we shared. It was an exciting time.
A strenuous workout always brings about a better mood in most people . I especially see it in Ridge. He was always naturally strong and by training he has gotten even more aware of his body. The culture of CrossFit is very supportive and social. We all cheer for one another no matter what level you are at.
Maddie was a senior and Ridge in 8th grade. It was a fast year of football, college visits and lots of stress around that life decision. My hair grew back partially anyway and I started working out at Crossfit. Ridge went too although he was anxious at first as usual.(He thought I was paying people to cheer for him secretly.)
My mother passed away but shared a beautiful thought with me right before she died. She told me that her life had been like a novel with many chapters. Each chapter was important– even the last one that she had not wanted to do. She had been almost bedridden and had to depend on others. My brother and sisters and their children and grandchildren would go by and visit or call her and it gave her another perspective on the world. Because of their love and kindness , she enjoyed her last days and felt tremendous love. I felt that I had received a priceless gift of this and it has given me hope for my own new chapters.
Maddie graduated with honors from high school and Ridge did too from the middle school.Maddie moved to Austin to attend UT and Ridge started high school with pre AP classes and a more competitive football team. Texas football is famous. Our team is one of the best and the coach is an amazing man. As God would have it, his daughter was in Ridge’s 6th grade class and I met the family through PTO before he was the coach.
I remember the first time Coach Kaiser met Ridge and he made deep eye contact and shook his hand. I told him a little about Ridge and I could tell that there was no need to further explain. This was one of those rare people that see beyond outward appearances. He was a strong football coach but an even stronger leader of men. He cared about these boys and I knew that I had another angel to help along the way.
Football went smoothly until the team made it into the payoffs and Ridge was extremely anxious about traveling to new areas and the change in his schedule. He made it but I was afraid that he was starting to regress.
Ridge had started melting metals by creating a forge he saw on a You Tube video. He saved his money to buy a professional set up and has mastered aluminum, brass, and copper. He has shown extreme caution and respect for the dangerous pouring and has had no accidents this far.
After one slight incident with a school personnel, we got things straightened out for smooth sailing so far in high school. Ridge has even become the defender of certain teachers that he thinks are consistent and effective but the kids are lazy. He can barely tolerate the blaming they do instead of studying. It is interesting to watch him go from outcast, to fly under the radar, to becoming a good student and even leader.
Yesterday, my friend and I picked Ridge up after spring football practice and we were talking in the car. He mentioned that we had finally lived in one place log enough for him to feel connected. It has been almost 4 years here in Texas. Ridge has a group of friends that invite him to parties and sleep overs. He has adapted to public school. He is playing football and learning how to get better. None of this would be possible were it not for the many teachers, volunteers and unseen angels working behind the scenes.
It was my 50th birthday yesterday too. I went to bed thinking of the many blessings I have this year with my health, my friends and family and the huge relief I feel with Ridge being successful without my constant help. I can’t predict the future but right now it is feeling pretty good.
I have made friends here too. First with myself-I started a consistent meditation practice that has helped me to sleep better, reduces anxiety and provides a safe place for me to release and forgive. I joined a local Course in Miracles Group and the CrossFit members have been amazing support. My parents are gone but I still hear and feel their love through my brother and sisters even though they are a long way away.
I bought myself another horse and I am committed to carrying out my dream of riding and camping all over the united states. When the demands are less, it makes it easier to follow your personal interests. Maddie is about to complete her first year at UT and Colt has plans to expand the CrossFit gym and even to get married.
Life is moving very fast and I am very fortunate to even still be here. It is my goal to live every day with as much laughter as possible and to reframe this story until it gets closer to the way God would see it. Maybe it all makes sense in the bigger picture.