Making the Takeoff

My mind had become a steel trap, my body a living extension of my car.

Gone was my usual, doubtful sense of direction.

At that moment, no version of Google Maps could have plotted a more efficient route, and no GPS unit could have outguided the conversation in my head.

“This light is always fast, but turn anyway; there’s a truck ahead … ok, this can be a 10-minute run if there’s no cross-traffic on Mountain View … 17th is slow this time of day , be aware of conditions….”

Medical emergency to attend to? Package to meet? Natural disaster to outrun? No, no, and no. This was far more vital.

In roughly 15 minutes, Missy’s van would be arriving to take her to art class.

So in roughly 15 minutes, I had to be there, or she would refuse to go.

As regular readers know, life with our disabled ward Missy is both wonderful and curious. In the seven years that Heather and I have been caring for her, we’ve gotten used to a lot of things. The overstuffed purse that comes with her everywhere she goes. Her ability to love and rejoice in simple things, whether it’s acrylic paint or pie at dinner. The way she latches onto the details in a bedtime story, or seems to remember every person she’s ever met.

But some of them take a little more adjustment. Of those, the most notable may be her reluctance to take off from the house on an activity unless I’m there to see her go.

There are occasional exceptions. If Heather can talk her into waiting together in the front yard, or if the driver seems cute (yes, really), or if the van comes exactly when she’s on the threshold of the door, there’s a chance. But even then, it’s a roll of the dice without the best of odds.

It’s not a dislike of the activity. Once she’s at art, or the bowling alley, or her trip of the day, she has a blast. But for whatever reason, Missy needs to have the full team at home before she’s ready to leave it. Maybe she wants to make sure I’m OK. Maybe I have the deep, authoritative voice that she’ll listen to. (Relatively speaking; my timbre is more-or-less normal, but compared to Heather’s vocal pitch, I’m Johnny Cash.)

But the need is there. And once in a while, when the need just can’t be met, she’s missed some fun things because of it.

I can sympathize with that a lot. I think most of us can.

After all, there are always times where it’s just not easy to let go.

Sometimes we’re holding on to memories that won’t let us move forward. Sometimes we’re holding on to fears that keep us back. Sometimes, for the best of reasons, we’ve convinced ourselves of a need that isn’t. It might be a harmless “magic feather” like Dumbo’s that’s just needed to build confidence, or something much more toxic or dangerous that would be better left behind, if we could just figure out how.

But in all those cases – good, bad, or ultimately harmless – holding on can mean missing out. We lose opportunities because we’re just not ready.

There’s not a magic light switch to change that. All of us become ready for things in our own time, in our own way. But we have to know the choice is there and in our power, or we’ll never reach for the next thing at all.

I’m pretty sure that Missy knows. And I don’t mind being part of her launch party as often as I can. What caregiver, or parent, or guardian, doesn’t want to be loved and needed?

But when the day comes that Mission Control can repeatedly report a successful takeoff of the USS Missy, without hesitation or reluctance, that too will be welcomed.

And then, at last, the GPS can go off duty.

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