When I was in early elementary school, my sister and I had our first encounter with who was soon to become our best friend. I remember the day that we met him.....
We had a boat in Sandusky, Ohio and spent our summers there every year. When I was six days old I was on my first boat ride going to Kelley's Island for the weekend....so a major part of my life was spent boating. We docked our boat in a private location so we had a long paved driveway leading us to our boat. I remember our family taking a walk down the driveway and seeing another family walking towards us. We had never met them before, but I noticed that their son was riding a bike and peddling with his hands instead of his legs. I also noticed that he was about my age. We stopped and introduced ourselves and that was the first day of many years of spending time with Joey. When Joey was born he was paralized from the waist down and spent his days in a wheelchair. But that didn't matter to me. When I played with him it was like he was walking and running right along side me. He was speedy fast in his chair and could beat me in races. He could play basketball and do just about anything that we could do. My sister and I became fast friends with him. Every weekend...ever summer..was spent with Joey. And even time in between. He and his family lived in Cleveland, but we still found time to see them during the winter. Joey was a child who taught me that having a disability doesn't mean you can't do what you want in life. He was an inspiration to me.
I say was because on Monday of this week we got the dreaded phone call from my dad that Joey was struggling to survive. He had been sick with bronchitis and things spiraled from there to the point that he had to be forced into a coma. On Wednesday of this week, his parents and fiance had to let him go. You would think that since I haven't seen him much as an adult that I wouldn't be as effected by his death. But as I write, I am fighting back the tears. And when I got the news I just sobbed. My poor girls are heartbroken to see my crying this week, but it is a good lesson for them about the beauty of going to heaven. This death hit me hard. I had friends in school when I was little, but Joey was my buddy. He was my true best friend. I am grieved to see him go.
My sister and I keep laughing about all of the memories that we had with Joey. His parents had a boathouse so we spent time with Joey in the house when the weather was bad at the lake. Joey's favorite movie was Top Gun and I can't even tell you how many times he made us watch that movie with him. As we got a bit older, he and I watched the movie Spaceballs a million times. That was "our" movie together. We taught Joey to swim. He had no idea he could swim without use of his legs, but one day my dad strapped a life jacket on to him and literally threw Joey in the lake. I remember the look on Joey's face when he figured out he could float. From that time on we spent hours and hours swimming in Lake Erie. We had season passes to Cedar Point and our moms would take us in the summer. The highlight of our trips was getting Joey's handicapped pass for the rides. If we rode with him we could cut in front of everyone in line and walk right onto the ride. And we got double and triple rides with him. It was awesome! One weekend I decided I wanted to know what it was like to be in a wheelchair. I had mom and dad rent a wheelchair for me and I stayed in it from Friday night to Monday morning. I did not use my legs and had many wheelchair races with Joey....and lost. The memories just go on and on. He was a good man and we will miss him so much.