Dreams, Disability, and Detours

I have always wanted to live on a farm. Always. I think my dream was born when my family stayed with an elderly gentleman and his wife on a hobby farm in Troffer Hole, New Mexico (a place that, according to the online maps, no longer exists). We had been visiting a family cemetery in this “town,” a place that consisted of just the cemetery and a small handful of farmhouses, and we were unable to find a hotel. This lovely older couple had offered to put six of us up in their home for the night. The farmer and his wife were so friendly and hospitable; if farm living cultivated these traits in people, then I wanted to live on a farm and be that same way. It fascinated me to collect eggs from the henhouse and then eat them for breakfast. The farmer’s wife worked magic in the kitchen with home-baked delicacies…I certainly wanted to do that when I grew up!
In high school, I pored over copies of Organic Gardening my parents had collected. Those years were too busy to work a vegetable garden so I satisfied my gardening urge with a shelf in my bedroom filled with African violets. They grew gigantic and bloomed year round on a bit of daily care, but still, I wanted to mess in real dirt. I used to fantasize about sharing my deepest secrets with a doe-eyed cow during hand milking…call me crazy. I reminisced about those fresh eggs from Troffer Hole, New Mexico.
When we met and married, my husband shared my dream of living on a little farm in the country. We settled, instead, in a quiet small town just outside the suburbs. It was a great place to raise children, but still we longed to move our family to the country. My husband had grown up on a hobby farm and wanted this for his children as well. We hoped and smiled and roughed out a timetable for making this a reality. One beautiful daughter was born; another little life was due to enter this world soon. We were right on schedule!
But then came The Diagnosis. With the The Diagnosis came a host of medical issues and the corresponding appointments, tests and treatments. We weren’t sure what medical emergencies The Diagnosis might include, but we were painfully aware they would be likely in our lives. The idea of living any further from our regional Children’s Hospital than we already were was too frightening to consider, so we shelved our dream. We were officially on our Detour.
At first, living with disability was all-consuming and I didn’t especially miss our dream. I grieved over our oldest daughter’s losses while I worked hard to actively stifle that grief to be present for our children. I tried to get through each day functionally (which, I’ll admit, didn’t always happen well). The practical aspect of dealing with a toddler and a newborn, of handling medical urgencies, of meeting a hectic schedule of medical appointments and therapies, of wrestling with home health companies and insurance and the Department of Developmental Disabilities—you know the drill—replaced the dreams. There wasn’t any spare time to realize they were missing, but there was a quiet longing I couldn’t put my finger on.
Fast-forward ten years. Our daughter’s health issues stabilized to a point where we could manage them without intense intervention. We’d come to terms with our grief and moved into a place of acceptance. We were able to celebrate the young ladies each of our daughters was becoming. Quietly, unobtrusively, our dreams of a hobby farm re-emerged. It was at this point we realized that our life’s unexpected route did not have to mean an end to our dreams...it was merely a Detour. It became very energizing to consider pursuing what we had once planned. The prospect of working towards our Dream brought us joy and renewed hope. Hope motivates…hope can move us to action.
Today I sit typing at the desk in our farmhouse where we’ve lived just over a year now. It feels like we’ve come home. Disability took us for a Detour, but we have arrived at our Dream.

Now, sometimes Detours may cause you to enter your destination from a different angle, and that has certainly been the case for us. We didn’t imagine that a wheelchair would be included in our Dream, nor the need for special access to collect eggs, nor training goats to pull a wagon so our daughter could move across the pasture. We had originally imagined our farm would be just for us, but the Lord has given us a vision for a different direction. Now we hope to open our farm to other families with disabilities at some future time. We’d love to be able to offer respite from the intensity of disability, offering the experience of normal—but accessible—farm living (complete with pampering and some of that farm wife’s home cookin'!). Things look a bit different from the life we imagined, but still, we are living our Dream!

Did you abandon a Dream when your child was diagnosed? I recognize that our children’s needs sometimes mean more than just a Detour; sometimes these needs rewrite our lives. But might it be possible to snatch back a bit of your Dream? There may be ways…it may take some creative thinking, some adjustment to the way the Dream looks, some longer-range planning than expected. But if you can possibly do that, if you can grab hold of that hope in some way, however small, you may find inspiration and wonderful energy.


vlmaples said...

You are a great story teller, Rose-Marie! Love to pictures to complement. Only missing the farmer's wife. ;-)

Rose-Marie said...

Thanks, Valerie! Moms are always on the other side of the shutter, which is why the absence of the farmer's wife photos. You know how that goes!

Aadhaar said...

Yes, we had to abandon very key aspects of Our Dream when my situation became clear. Oh well. When one looks for happiness in circumstance then one is never going to find one's own true happiness - just something outside oneself, I figure. My largish detour has been to go more inward, and look less at what those things in my life do for my sense of self. But I still love goats.

Rose-Marie said...

Hi Aadhaar,

I appreciate your wisdom, as always. You are absolutely right that circumstances will never bring us joy. Even if things go as we had hoped, trying to find our joy in circumstances will leave us hollow.

I think what I am trying to suggest is that we not to allow the circumstances of disability to cause us to give in to a defeatist attitude. You set an excellent example of re-routing your Dreams by finding fulfilling new ones. That is both realistic AND hopeful. There are times families might still be able to make their original Dreams come to fruition with adjusted expectations, hard work, and ingenuity. Maybe not. A realistic and hopeful attitude figures out if there is a way, or if we need to redefine our dreams. But to throw in the towel and admit defeat without exploring options, or to refuse to reroute our dreams, are mindsets that are guaranteed to suck all the fun right out of life.

No, fun isn't the same as joy. But it's a whole lot better than the alternative. Goats know how to have fun...gotta love those goats!