Like a lot of busy moms, I was never much of a “plopper.” There was always something I needed to do, somewhere to go, somebody who needed something. What I needed was more hours in the day!
In 2015, I was diagnosed with ALS. Among many emotions and fears that surfaced, one of the most difficult for me involved our family’s annual one-week trip to a rustic camp in California’s beautiful Trinity Alps. I have 35 years of memories of my sons swimming in the river, rafting, playing horseshoes, cards, and ping pong, riding bikes and sitting around the campfire, performing in the “talent” show, and all the special bonds that come from a week in the woods with family and dear friends.
At first, I wondered if I could go at all. I hated the thought of being a burden, or getting in the way of the fun. My husband, Paul, and my boys Marc, Luc, and Dan immediately responded: not going is not an option. They figured out what I might need. Paul arranged for me to have an ATV so I could move around camp with confidence. We brought some special grab bars for our cabin and simple ramps so I wouldn’t have to worry about stairs. They then all did that thing that cannot be easily described: They paid attention, and they made anything that was difficult for me easier by just lending a kind hand.
But last year one cherished Trinity activity looked like it was heading for my “unlikely” list: There is a wonderful swimming hole where several families who come every year for the same week, bring the largest flotation crafts they can find (last year’s biggest was 16’ X 10’ with built-in loungers and ice chest). When the sun starts to dip every afternoon, a group of us moms launch a floating cocktail party. We call it “party island.” It’s an hour or two of sun, friends, laughs, and no worries. It’s the definition of a simple pleasure. But it involves, for a person with ALS, a not-so-simple climb down a steep gravel path and then rocky walk to the water, and then boarding the giant raft with some degree of . . . well, I’m not sure “grace” describes even the most able-bodied person’s boarding style. And last summer, that was not me, and did I mention there were at least a couple of dozen people lounging on the shore watching all this?
Undeterred, my husband and sons decided I was not going to miss out. I swallowed all pride and let the boys carry me down the rocky hill and across the beach, and then they plopped me on the inflatable island. Post-plop, I was exactly where I wanted to be: floating with cherished girlfriends, remembering and laughing at all the memories of chasing toddlers around the shallows, worrying about sunscreen and naps and poison oak.
Now, my grown young men are taking care of me. It’s not easy. But what a circle. What a life. What a lucky mom I am to have my three sons, my husband, and an army of loving, supportive friends and family who make sure I continue to enjoy the life I so love, even with ALS.
As Mothers Day approaches, I feel so much gratitude for my sons, my family, and my life. I have learned that sometimes the secret to a special burst of happiness can be to just give in . . . and plop.
– Nancy Sallaberry