Home is where everyone knows Steven, where he grew up with the security of rolling down the street to the sound of people greeting him by name. Even the people who didn't much care for me weren't shy about loving him. They remembered his Daddy, and it was through the collective memory of family and friends that he has a lot of the happy stories he falls back on to this day.
When his medical needs rapidly started outreaching the resources available to us, it was time. That last close call with a shunt failure shook me to the core. The scales tipped, and we made the move.
We've been here a few years now, but it was our trip to the mall last week that gave me clarity.
If you've never tried to navigate a shopping mall with a power chair, there's a level of frustration you haven't gotten to experience yet. ;) We chose a weekday, hoping for the best. Steven had a list of things to do, lunch, haircut with his favorite cute hairdresser, visiting his favorite cute salesperson in Best Buy Mobile... and I had an agenda. Steven was disappointed the day he helped at the giving tree because only one person took a tag on his shift. We needed to remedy that.
We opted to use Paratransit to save the frustration of mall parking, and when the bus pulled up...
That's when the giggling started.
A happy Steven emits a belly laugh somewhere between a giggle, a cackle, and a honk. It's a wonder of diaphragmatic breathing and sheer joy.
We loaded up, and I noticed Steven was already buddies with the new driver. He had him broken in, that's for sure. Steven is apparently a VERY good supervisor, keeping the drivers on the straight and narrow with his knowledge of rules and procedure. By the time we were dropped off at the mall, the driver had the giggles too.
We got a few steps into the main entry of the mall, when we had to stop and visit with the firemen manning the Red Kettle. We asked if we could get a picture with them as Steven made his contribution, and they scrambled to amuse him by letting him hold the helmet and helping him reach the bucket.
We made it through lunch, then headed off to our haircut. It's a good thing we allowed extra time, because every 20 steps or so, we ran into someone we knew. We stopped to chat a minute with his old school bus driver, then that cute salesperson met us at the doorway of BBM to make sure she was still at the top of Steven's Girlfriend List. An off-duty paratransit driver stopped to say hello, and as we got closer to our destination, we met a lady who worked with him at the high school.
Haircuts from Erin are always good for a Steven Hug. It's her extra tip. ;)
Off we went to get a tag to fill. Steven flirted with the ladies at the tree, of course, and we decided on a young man with special needs, since he was expert at "guy stuff". There were still plenty to choose from, so we picked one for a senior citizen as well, since Grandmas need love too.
Off to the Chick Magnet's Mecca...Sears. *Insert Tim the Toolman grunt here*
After much deliberation, he found a good deal on a nifty radio-controlled car he said HE would like if he were getting it. (I think that was a hint...) and we went off in search of batteries. While I was examining the choices, he was approached by a smiling older woman. I assumed it was someone he knew through his day program at first, since they started right in about the merits of awesome toys. Nope, just making conversation.
She jumped when he honked out a laugh at her remark, but she caught the giggle bug too. "Oh, you are just PRECIOUS! Can I have a hug?" she asked. I should probably be jealous at his readiness to give her one, since I have steal MINE... but I'll try not to whine. :)
After picking out a gift for the Grandma on the other tag, we were off to the far corners of the mall again to get the gifts wrapped, take them back to the tree (Where he was greeted happily by the women he had already flirted with the first visit). We ran into a school friend, a Hope, Inc. friend, and eventually made our way back to the food court for a bit of DQ before hitting the road again.
We noticed, on our way back, that there were no kids in line for Santa pictures. We looked at each other and simultaneously said "Why not?". It's become a bit of a tradition, after all. The HoHoHo-ing, honking Steven Santa Laugh could probably summon reindeer from the North Pole all by itself. By the time we got the pictures snapped, he had them all giggling.
I'm trying to learn that while it's better to give than to receive, it's okay to let other people have the happiness of doing something nice. It still threw me off a bit to have my money refused by Santa's boss. I'm getting better about not feeling so awkward about allowing people to do something nice for us, because I can finally see it's not out of pity for his disability, but out of joy from that honk and that smile.
Of course, after Steven accused me of STEALING them, I explained that Santa just wanted to do something nice for him like he had done for other people. That helped, but I was thisclose to the cuffs the way he was talking.
The driver who picked us up is one we've known since we moved here, but he's still not used to Steven's laugh when it comes out unexpectedly. Steven honked, the driver jumped... which made Steven laugh LOUDER... the driver jumped higher... "Are you okay???"
Steven figured it was the sugar.
I think it was Christmas.
In any case, when we got home I finally got it.
Home really is where everybody knows Steven.