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The Big Game

Copyright © 1997 by Bill Abbott

Dear Mr. May:

One afternoon I was reading articles from Exceptional Parent magazine to my husband, Bill. When I finished the "Fathers' Voices" section, I looked up to see tears rolling down my rugged husband's face. "It's a good thing," he said, and walked out of the room, embarrassed by his release of emotions.

Several hours later I was intrigued to find my husband frantically writing away in a tattered notebook. My two children kept vying for his attention, but Bill was entirely focused on the project at hand. Finally he took a deep breath, scooted his chair back and said, "This is my story."

My husband has never been big on words or expressing his feelings. After reading his story about his relationship with our son, Gregory, tears rolled down my face as well. "This is wonderful!" I said. "Let me send it in to "Fathers' Voices." He told me that it didn't matter if I sent it or not. It just felt good to say what he felt.

I have enclosed my husband's story. I will keep it for my son to read when he is older. After the birth of our second son, Patrick, who is now eight months old, we realize that we will have new challenges and issues every day. Thanks to Exceptional Parent magazine and "Fathers' Voices" for the information, support, and inspiration.

 

While I waited for my child to be born, I was like any other Dad. I dreamed of having my first son. I thought of how I would teach him to throw a curve ball and catch a football. As a young child and teenager, my life revolved around sports.

The day my son, Gregory, was born, was one that I will never forget. When the doctor said, "It's a boy," I was walking on air. Then reality knocked me to the ground. Gregory had sustained a brain injury after an excruciatingly long labor and nightmarish forceps birth. He was rushed to a larger hospital where he spent the next two weeks in neonatal I.C.U. At least he was alive, but I felt completely powerless to help him.

As the months went by, we began to realize that Gregory was not doing things that other babies had already mastered. After many visits to specialists, we were faced head-on with a diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy. I am an over-the road truck driver. The night that my wife, Cara, gave me the news, I was in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. I was mad at the world. I asked God and my late father above, "Why has this awful thing happened to me?" as if I were the one with C.P.

Four and a half years later the "son" is teaching the "dad." Gregory has shown me that he has more heart and gumption than any ballplayer that I have ever seen. Gregory's C.P. affects his right arm and leg, his speech, and his balance. As I watch him working on walking and using his weak arm, I have to restrain myself from helping him, as I know it will be better for him to do it himself in the long run.

I have always dreamed of being a coach. Well, I got my wish. Encouraging Gregory to be independent will be the biggest game that I will ever coach. The skills that I teach range from throwing a ball to pulling pants down and back up again.

I could talk about my son all day. As for most parents, seeing your child take his or her first steps is thrilling. When your child wears ankle-foot orthotics and is two and a half years old, seeing him take his first steps is a miracle. I would gladly take his place, to make his life easier. However, my son has shown me that I have little to worry about. He has the drive to accomplish whatever he decides is important to him.

Gregory is my son and my best friend. There are parts of me that only he knows and understands. Teaching him how to stand still in one spot without taking a tumble or learning to successfully navigate the bathroom is a much greater reward than winning any Super Bowl, World Series, or World Cup.


Cara & Bill Abbott
301 Hardin Street
Columbia, MO 65203

Published in "Fathers' Voices," Exceptional Parent magazine, November, 1994.

Click here to check out an incredible and moving collection of over 40 powerful, personal stories of men - fathers - and the joys and challenges of fathering a special child.


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