I don’t know how many times we’ve nearly lost our Nicholas. Doctors told us in 2005 that he might have two months to live – a sleep study that year revealed a terrible increase in obstructive and central sleep apnea, something that is untreatable for Nicholas because of his combination of disabilities. The palliative care team welcomed us and we tried to keep Nick pain-free and happy as we worried every day and night.
Last week our son turned 25 years old and we celebrated at our local sports bar with the family (minus our Natalie who is far away at graduate school) and a small group of best friends. Near our table, a ticker-tape display of sport betting odds rolled over the big screen and I thought about how Nick has beaten his own odds – he has surprised everyone with his hunger for living.
My Mom came from Montreal for the occasion. She’s another loved one who has beaten the odds….even the previous week it seemed she had given up on eating, getting dressed and possibly living. Three cases of C-Difficil within the last twelve months have taken their toll and my Mom is tired. But a date with ‘her treasure’ on his birthday at a SPORTS BAR was just the ticket to rejuvenate my Mom! She arrived, promptly ordered a rum and coke to go with her club sandwich and pronounced that she was ‘in heaven’.
Now I am up north at our family cottage in the Quebec Laurentians. I am awash with memories of Nick’s end-of-summer birthday parties up here. When Nicholas was small, we had outdoor birthday activities like ‘fish pond’, ‘garden hose high jump’, ‘find the treasure in a haystack’ and the ever popular ‘tractor rides’. Later, we began a family tradition of ‘The Nicholas Wright Lakeview Classic Birthday Golf Tournament’ – a hilarious homemade course event that combined mini-golf with amusing ‘hazards’ consisting of dog poo and sand piles. Jim and Nick would plan the course and then sink empty tins into the ‘holes’ and mark them with a stick and a plastic bag for a flag.
Watching a video of Nicholas’ thirteenth birthday at the cottage was an event that I wrote about in my book, “The Four Walls of My Freedom”:
Being Nick’s thirteenth birthday, the age of Bar Mitzvah for those of the Jewish faith, I decided that a case of beer should be part of the festivities and Nick be allowed a bottle. (He took a few sips, and then delighted, pretended to be tipsy.) As the golf game neared its finish, I went upstairs to collect the hamburgers for the bar-b-q. They were nowhere in sight. The platter sat clean and empty on the counter. I suddenly had a terrible thought and knew in my heart that I was right – Goldie, our golden retriever had eaten them. Twenty generous hamburger patties couldn’t fit into the stomach of a normal dog, but I knew the capacities of our Goldie from previous experience. By now, the golfers had congregated on the patio, ready for their lunch. I announced that hot dogs would be served instead of burgers due to one very greedy dog having just eaten our lunch, just as my brother in law Gerry with his video camera captured Goldie on the beach below belching up mounds of raw hamburger on the sand. Frank, my sister’s husband, was on screen suggesting that I should patty them up again since the meat was still fresh. As I watched the scene unfold on the videotape, I laughed again as hard as I had the first time it played out.
Nicholas may not have his birthdays up north anymore. But we will follow him as he cleverly reinvents himself, his place, his future and his fun. We have stopped thinking of Nicholas as having a limited life or abbreviated lifespan. We know he can beat the odds – he’s a winner and he’s my pick.
Happy Birthday, Nicholas, and may you have many more. We love you!