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Monday, November 9, 2009

Vacationing with Andrew

Most of our vacations were to Florida…As I said before, to be a part of my family, you must be a Disney fanatic so even though we traveled to other spots like Lake George, we usually wound up at Disney.

The real reason for this was how difficult it was to travel with me (see previous posting ….). Even after all of that was done, there were still very real issues with hotel living. Bathing, eating, sleeping were all issues to name a few. It could be so difficult that it was usually easier to just stay home.

But Disney is (for most part) a paradise for a handicapped person. Long before it was politically correct, Disney went to the max to accommodate the handicapped, at the resorts/hotels, in the transportation and in the parks. They even accommodate special diets. Regarding the parks, they got so PC that eventually it seemed that you couldn’t enter a park without a wheelchair and for a short time they actually went to the other extreme and cut back “special access, etc.” to near nothing.

In the meanwhile, Universal and the other parks had modified their handicapped policy to be entirely logical (to anyone with a true handicap), basically “if you are handicapped, either it is obvious (like a leg cast), you have your own wheelchair (and won’t have to rent one), or you can readily provide proof (because you wouldn’t travel without it)”. If you met any of the three criteria, they would issue a “handicapped pass” that indicated that you had a confirmed issue requiring “special access, etc.”. If you didn’t have any of the three, you didn’t get the pass. No longer was the fact that you were in a wheelchair sufficient to get the “special access, etc.”. In my case, the true need was never in question.

Even though the resorts are ultra-friendly to the handicapped, there are still some needs that are best addressed in a “no place like home” setting…things I have already mentioned like the tent, diaper disposal, keeping my restrictive foods nearby and of course, my very loud growling. Then mom had to worry that even with safety locks on the doors, I might still get out and find myself two or more floors up on a balcony, so …..

Eventually mom and dad bought a condo near Disney where they could easily arrange things as I needed them to be, making it even easier to vacation there. Here, they could secure my tent and all of the doors.. and they could leave things at the condo rather than having to take them back and forth in the luggage on each trip. But there were still moments …. Like one night when I just did not want to go to sleep. Dad had fallen asleep (can you say “snore” ?) but mom couldn’t because I would “walk” the tent over to the TV and mom would get up and put it (and me) back. It was a fun game (at least I thought so) and we did this several times. Finally, mom decide it was time to sleep and obviously the only way I would was if I was in bed, comfortably between mom and dad so she got me out of my tent and tried to lift me onto the bed. I didn’t really like the idea and squirmed, making it difficult for mom to hold onto me and finally, she thought to herself “it’s a soft bed” and let me fall backwards (from the waist). Only problem was that dad had moved in his sleep and was now directly below me. I fell dead center on his face, the back of my head all but breaking his nose ……….

I enjoyed several trips to Disney and have more memories than I can really count. We would almost always go to the parks when we were in Florida and mom would always decide what rides I could go on. She would mentally build a “no way” list and that list would somehow be telepathically transmitted to dad who would immediately start to contrive ways to get me on those rides. I can’t think of any ride that I didn’t get on eventually (it may have taken two or three trips before I finally got to ride them, but I did). My favorites:

  • Splash Mountain
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • Rock 'n' Roller Coaster
  • Tower of Terror

( I finally managed Tower of Terror on our last trip, after years of dad telling mom it was safe …..)

I remember that, almost invariably, if I was where the characters were, they would all gravitate to me… must have been my winning smile.

 They would all just gather around me for some reason and stay there longer than they really should have. Even the time I chased one down because they didn’t see me ! We we’re walking into MGM (It was Disney / MGM Studios then) and Rafiki from the Lion King had just been outside the gate and was heading back into the park. My Aunt Maureen called to him but he didn’t hear (or chose not too) so she decided that if she could push me up behind him and dad could take a picture – it would look like I had been talking to him (you would be amazed what these two- Aunt Maureen and dad – can cook up if let them) so off she went, pushing me and trying to get Rafiki to turn for a second or to get in front of him. Well, what did happen was that the front wheel of my chair ran over the front of Rafiki’s enormous foot and he stopped and looked down to see what it was. Instantly, I captured him with that now-famous smile and for the next five minutes we “talked” … you know, now that I think of it, maybe that is why the characters liked me, like them I couldn’t talk and I obviously thought they were real and took such delight to just see tham and touch them …. Who knows? So, let’s just say the plan worked though not as expected and I had lots of pictures taken of just me and Rafiki.

Then there was the time outside of Animal Kingdom when Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum were appearing. Even though I really didn’t know who they were, dad was determined to get me over to see hem. Just before I got there, Annie ran up to one of them and, as I remember, was startled and “screamed” when he turned around and looked at her. That was all it took… - forget me, both Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum began to “chase” Annie all around the front of Animal Kingdom for about five minutes.

And the time at “Pizza Planet” when Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story came over to me. After a period of time, he tried to leave but I grabbed his finger and wouldn’t let go until I was ready.

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