Friday, July 22, 2016

Riding off into the sunset.

Today was a hard day. After 2.5 years I finally donated Maggie's wheelchair today. 

It was time. But it is hard.

When Maggie was here, I would have gone to the mat with anyone who said Maggie's chair defined her. She was so much more than that stupid hunk of metal.  But after she died I could not part with it because it was part of her. It was her transportation. It went wherever she went and actually allowed her to get there, so it was also her freedom.  It was the only way she could really access her talker, so it was central to her communication. It was like a weird member of the family always in a prominent place in the house. (Had to be prominent, the thing was so big.)  When Maggie passed away the empty wheelchair was on the altar at her funeral. That was all we needed for people to feel her presence. 

So I guess if I'm being honest the wheelchair did kind of define her.

It's been sitting in our garage since February 2014 just off in a corner. Though I wasn't ready to part with it, I hated seeing it there. It made me feel guilty because that chair is full of bits and pieces that so many other kids can use. 

Now my father in law is moving in and has many special needs of his own. We need all the space we can get, so coupling that with my guilt over hoarding coveted parts of chairs, I decided to pull the trigger and called CCS (California Children's Services) and they were happy to take it.  I did ask that someone remove the cover with her name on it and give it to us and I'm sure they will. 

Since I sold the van I didn't have anyway to transport the chair, so they made arrangements to pick it up. As I wheeled it into their van I could feel the emotion welling up. I asked him to wait while I took a picture and held it together until he drove away. 

Just as the guy pulled away, my kind neighbor was coming down his stairs and greeted me warmly and was very surprised to see me in tears. The poor guy moved here after Maggie passed away and never knew her;  he had no way of knowing how significant that was, if he even saw any of it.  He just gave me a big hug and offered whatever help he could. But there's nothing he can do. It just is what it is. 

I know someone or several someones will get a lot of use out of all parts of that chair and that is how it should be.  It is sitting over at the CCS Medical Therapy Unit where Maggie spent so much time going to therapy and Girls ROck camp and Art Tech Camp. That unit is at 25th and Quintara Streets in the heart of the Sunset District of San Francisco. So the drama was complete.  It actually did ride off into the sunset.

And that made me smile. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Maggie's Peak

Maggie's Peak (I did not take this photo) 

Let me start this by admitting a few things. I am not a hiker. I am overweight and out of shape and generally choose to sit out activities that take place in the great outdoors. I’m not proud of any of that, but it is all true and important background information for the following.

About a month ago my brother Pat, an avid hiker, sent me this picture.

He took it from the top of Maggie’s Peak in Desolation Wilderness, just west of Emerald Bay at Lake Tahoe.  The picture is so beautiful it took my breath away.    

I looked it up and the description of the hike wasn’t too scary. Pat told me there was a lot of “up” and just when you thought you were at the top there was more “up.” 

I talked about wanting to do it from the safety of my living room, 200 miles way, but it was just that – talk. Then I was invited to spend a few days at Tahoe with my friend Eileen, who was also Maggie’s pediatrician. She too hikes quite a bit and was very interested in trying this. She talked to rangers about the best times to go etc. I began to worry about it because I might actually have to put my feet where my mouth was.  Oh well. 

I arrived at Tahoe on Tuesday and Eileen and I decided to try the hike on Wednesday. I warned her that I was not in hiking (or any other kind of) shape. Eileen said simply, “we will just give it a try. If we can’t make it no problem.”  I felt better. But then she added, “We will do it for Maggie. Maggie never gave up.” 

That’s when I knew I had to do it.

We arrived at the trail head about 715 AM. Pat said it took him an hour plus to make the climb, so I figured it would take me two. It was more like three to get to the top. It’s a lot of elevation change and I took multiple rests.  But we were rewarded with views like these on the way up.

 Also we made a slight detour at Granite Lake, which is pictured in the foreground of the photos from Maggie's Peak. We scurried off the trail to talk to a guy with a map because we were unsure if we were going the right way. We were -- just as Pat had predicted, there was just more UP before we got there. 

The altitude was kind of getting to me. I had arrived in Tahoe (elevation 6200 ft) only the evening before and wasn't quite acclimated and then we climbed to over 8400 feet in just over three miles. I was quite nauseous and light headed at the top and had to sit down for awhile. Of course I had my very own doctor with me so I wasn’t too worried, even if I am decades older than most of her patients.

Actually the altitude illness was rather fitting in its own way too. We stopped taking Maggie to Tahoe when she was very little when it finally dawned on me that she was getting altitude sickness whenever we went up there. The sickness is kind of subtle (until it’s not) and it took me a while to realize that is what was happening to Maggie even at Lake level. I thought about that as I climbed and thought of so many times with her.   

The hike was absolutely worth every step and every moment of queasiness. The views going up were spectacular and the view from the top absolutely extraordinary.

But the emotional reward was the best of all. I was sitting atop Maggie's Peak. I actually climbed a mountain for her.  

Eileen and I both placed a rock for Maggie at the top of Maggie’s Peak.

I sat there drinking in the unimaginable beauty thinking about and missing Maggie. I could feel her laughter in the wind and see her smile everywhere I looked. It was wonderful  I thank my brother Pat for inspiring me and my friend Eileen for helping me follow through.

I'm very glad I did it and recommend it to you. If I can do it anyone can. Leave a rock up there for my Maggie and send me a picture.   


This one is from the backside of Maggie's Peak looking Northwest into Desolation Wilderness. that's Eagle Lake far below. It's supposed to be a nice loop, but we went back down the way we came up.