It was about 1999 when we first met John. Like most Moms, I was struggling with 'arsenic hour', that time between after school and bedtime when children came home from school, the dog needed walking, dinner needed preparing, and homework needed doing. I didn't want professional care for Nicholas (we couldn't afford it anyway), but I thought perhaps a local teenager could help Nick with his homework and play a computer game with him while I attended to other pressing matters in my kitchen. So I called the guidance counsellor at the high school down the street. I explained that our son had very severe disabilities and I described the type of student I thought we needed: fun, loyal, someone who could be like an older brother. John offered to help - he was 16.
The first day, John was so shy that he hardly spoke a word to Nick. But we persevered and soon, the boys were laughing. One night, we all went to a restaurant for dinner where they gave children a toy prize from a 'treasure chest'. Nick chose a couple of toy ninja turtles. The next day, I heard the Nicholas laughing his head off as John acted out a fight between the ninjas (so THIS is how boys play!).
John took Nick on his first ever city bus ride. He came with us to the cottage and rode with Nick behind our boat sitting on a wind surf board tied with a ski rope. They went full speed when Jim wasn't looking! A couple of years later, John came with us on a family holiday to Kennebunk in Maine. He looked at the Atlantic waves and thought, "I can get Nick to ride on a boogie board!", and he did.
John helping Nick have his very first city bus ride.
The boys dyed their hair blonde at the cottage one summer!
Best buds having fun, always.
As Nicholas suffered from chronic pain and complications from his disabilities in 2005, the boys learned that the next winter Olympics were to be held in Vancouver. Even though Nick was very ill, they promised each other that they'd make the trip out west to see the games. The next year, Jim was posted to London and we moved to the UK. Nick was far too frail to travel back to Canada, but John never forgot his promise. The day of the Vancouver games opening ceremonies, Nick's old friend arrived at our door carrying a large bag of Canadian fan gear and sports snacks from home. For the next two weeks, the boys stayed awake all night cheering our athletes on and slept during the day. I remember that every morning Jim and I would find a hand written note on the floor outside our bedroom door with the medal count and of course, hockey scores.
Today, John is a highly successful real estate agent in our home town of Ottawa, Canada. He married his beautiful bride Raphaelle on January 2nd and we know that she will be part of our extended family now, too.
Disability or dependency needs in families can lead to enduring relationships with the people who help us. Their kindness, loyalty and friendship enriches all our lives in many, many ways.