In retrospect, we shouldn’t have been surprised when the phone rang an hour after Clay got to camp Monday morning.
Yes, he woke up at 4:30 that morning with no intention of going back to sleep, but—sadly—that isn’t all that unusual. Yes, he did seem a tad warm. And, yes, he had been dragging a little over the weekend, typing “stay here” to all our offers to go somewhere, but we didn’t think much of that, either. Camp takes a lot out of him, and he needs the weekend to recover. It was his last week of camp. I had a busy day of work ahead, and my wife had a late meeting that would keep her out until past nine that night. So, we packed him off on the bus as usual.
Then came the “dreaded call.”
He started crying when he got to camp, the camp nurse explained. His aide asked what was hurting, and he typed, “everything.” Fifteen minutes later, I wandered through the camp gates and saw him sitting at a picnic table under a tree with his aide. (Just seeing the little guy sitting is a four-alarm warning bell.) As soon as he spotted me, he got up and headed for the car. Ten minutes later, we were home. He climbed right to his room, where he wrapped himself in his covers and promptly fell asleep for three hours.
A good chunk of my work day was gone. What a perfect time to receive an e-mail from one of the counselors at his camp.
There were two days this summer when Clay’s one-on-one aide Trish was not at camp. Another counselor, Emily, filled in. Both nights, we asked how camp went.
“A sad day,” he typed.
“Trish was not there.”
We felt bad for Emily, but here is what Emily had to say in an e-mail on Monday.
“Being only 16, I still have much time to figure out what I want to do with my life, though for a while I’ve wanted it to involve special education. … those few days being with Clay, and seeing him every day last summer and his progression with the typing tool this summer, I now know with my whole heart that I want to work in the special education field.”
Wow. She also said this:
“Some days at camp there is much stress and chaos, but when I’d see Clay and … and he’d give me a little hug, it just brightened up my entire day. … He was such a complete joy to be with; so sweet and silly.”
Thanks, Emily, for brightening up what Clay would describe as a “sad day.” Thanks to everyone at Clay’s camp for sending him home smiling so often this summer, and for reaching out recently to share your stories.