We arrived in Galveston a day early. John and I knew Samantha would need a day to adjust to a new environment. We checked into the hotel and took off to visit Ohana Surf and Skate where we met Boog and Josh, volunteers with “Oceans for All” and introduced them to Sam. Josh was at the counter where he had his computer and told us he would be surfing with Sam. He had Sam’s biography so he knew she was nonverbal and deaf. Josh traveled all the way from California for this event so I was stoked to find
that he would be surfing with Sam. I knew Sam was a little nervous when we entered the shop but I liked the way she reached out to touch Josh’s hand when he came around the counter to speak to her. This meant a lot. It wasn’t long ago when Sam would withdraw her hand from others as they reached out to touch her. Now, here she was holding her red basting brush, reaching out to Josh. John and I told Josh that she always carries some kind of sensory toy (sometimes lizards) and being the proud parents we are we also told him how much Sam loved to swim and jet ski but she had never been to the beach. Surely this was going to be an entirely new experience for her but I had faith in her ability to adapt. We bought some T-shirts, talked a while and then we headed back to the hotel and ordered dinner. Sam was running all over the place, jumping up and down and just checking things out. She didn’t know why we were there. She spent the early part of the week at home with a runny nose, cough and congestion so we were lucky we made it to Galveston. It isn’t easy traveling when you have to bring your entire house with you!
Sam is a creature of habit. She likes structure, familiarity and wherever we go we need to make sure we have access to a refrigerator and a microwave (sometimes a full kitchen) and a few comforts of home (i.e. favorite blankets and toys). We also need diapers, wipes, foam bath soap, medications and several extra clothes, snacks, sippy cups and favorite spoons. Okay, maybe it is not the entire house but when I am packing for Sam it sure feels like it! Sam finally settled down, took a bath and went to sleep. John and I watched TV for a bit and then decided to call it a night. I know it sounds boring but John’s work schedule is unpredictable so while he is usually quite busy working, Sam and I are living predictably. Some days are the best and some days really stink. This is the way it has been for the past 10 years but we smile (sometimes I cry) and roll with it!
As I was lying in bed that night all I could think about was tomorrow. I couldn’t sleep. I was too excited. I imagined Sam surfing and how or if she would surf! I had been waiting for this opportunity for years and Ohana Surf and Skate and Billabong were going to make my dream for Sam come true in Texas. I felt like a child waiting for Santa at Christmas. Morning finally came and, at last, Sam was awake. John bought breakfast and we went through our usual morning routine. My very good friend, Suzette, sent me a text. She was bringing her students (“her kids” – how I love them!) to the surf camp too and they were on their way to Galveston from Katy. Her text read, “I am pumped up. I couldn’t sleep last night.” I smiled and replied to her text to let her know I was feeling the same.
I dressed Sam in her Billabong rash guard and board shorts and made sure she looked extra cute for her big day. We were all ready to go to the beach and, suddenly, Sam grew fearful. She was crawling around the hotel room and refused to stand up or get into her stroller. I thought, “Oh no! She’s freaking out. She’s scared. I told Josh that Sam was fearless. Did I have too much faith?” John and I gave Sam a little time to calm down and then managed to get her into her stroller. She was kicking her right leg nervously and wanted to hold my hand as John pushed the stroller to the car. Sam reluctantly got into the car, I strapped her into her car seat as she fussed and all I could hope for was that she would be okay by the time we got to the beach…and she was.
Once Sam saw the sand and the water everything became okay. She sat for while, observed and then decided to run towards the salty beach water, sit and eat sand. Sam was happy. I was happy. When it was Sam’s turn to surf, Josh greeted her. He got his surfboard ready, I put Sam’s life jacket on her and then the most amazing thing happened – Sam was on the surfboard, taking off on her belly with Josh right behind her. Everyone cheered. I am pretty sure my heart was smiling bigger than it has ever smiled before. I felt like I was surfing! John shot about 700 pictures as Sam surfed with Josh for entire an hour. She loved it! We loved it!
There was so much happiness and gratitude in my heart (there still is!) as Josh and the sweet female spotters/volunteers helped Sam surf. Doctors once told us Sam might never walk, but here she was surfing!
People often tell me that Sam is lucky to have John and me as parents because we love her so much and do our best to give her every opportunity to grow and succeed. Though I appreciate their kindness and respect, I actually feel the opposite is true. John and I are the lucky ones. Sam inspires and brings out the best in everyone who surrounds her. She is the sweetest, happiest and most loving little girl I know. She has helped John and me appreciate “the little things” and has managed to bring so many generous and incredible people into our lives. We are blessed.
I am going to keep the memory of this day of surfing with me for a very long time. Sam has several visits to many different doctors and an MRI of her brain coming up this month and I am I not looking forward to any of it. If I can think of happy days like this day then I know we can make it through the “not so happy” days! Thank you to Ohana Surf and Skate, Billabong, Ocean for All and every volunteer who gave us this gift. You are the best!
by Monica Tello McDivitt on Monday, October 10, 2011 at 10:21pm. Samantha is a camper at Easter Seals Camp Buckaroo and a “lil Rustler” with the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo. Monica is a tireless advocate for Samantha and the many children who also need our support.