Jemelene Wilson

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Jemelene Wilson: Power outage reminds me of fabulous friends

I've been asked numerous times over the past 13 years how people can support parents who have children with special needs. I don't know what other families desire but I'll tell you what works for me.

As I sit here writing, it is 6 pm on Sunday evening. The power has been out since 4:15 or so and the thermometer is hovering around 93f. As we drove down Harvard Avenue with dark traffic signals, we were hoping it hadn't affected our home but the silence of the air conditioner units gave it away as we made our way up the walk.

Thankfully the house was still cool.

My youngest daughter can't handle heat. We found out when she was just 9 months old after our car broke down in Southern California on a terribly hot day. The next evening she was admitted to the hospital for dehydration. There have been a few times since then that she has had health issues relating to summer weather.

Before I had a child with special needs, I was oblivious to what it takes when they become part of your life. It wasn't that I didn't want to understand, there was just no way that I could. As supportive as I wanted to be, there was always room in my life to learn more. To listen to, to care and to help lift the burden.

I have friends like that. When Allison arrived in our lives, they pitched in to help any way they could. Now, they understand better than most folks because they have taken the time to be around us. When they have a family event, they don't assume we can't come. They invite us anyway. They don't expect us to leave our daughter home. They include her, they accommodate her and what I love the most is that they engage her.

Today I heard my friend tell her grandchildren, “You can't let the hot air in. It hurts Alli to get too hot.” She knows this because she know us.

When we are invited to her home, I can always rely on the following:

There will always be more than one spot to accommodate the wheelchair.
She asks the other children to find toys that Allison will enjoy.
She always engages her. She talks to her because even though Allison doesn't verbally respond, she knows that Allison is “in there”. She knows that loving Alli is about Alli, not about herself. It isn't what my friend gets back that's important, it's what she gives out. If you ask her, she loves to love Alli.

What a sweet lesson for all of us. What a great example to her adult children and grandchildren. In her home, being different is the best kind of “normal” anyone can be.

We can all learn from this kind of a friend. The one that sees a curve ball thrown and cheers us on to swing away is the one who will be there when things get dark. It's the kind of friend I want to be. I want to make a way for those whose life may be a little different and whose paths aren't always so smooth.

My friend listens to my heart. She knows my stories (maybe because for the past twenty three years she has been in most of them) and loves me completely. That's how she supports me. That is how the burden becomes lighter for me. It doesn't take expert advice or extraordinary experience.

It takes the willingness to listen. It is as simple as being a friend.

Jemelene Wilson is married with two daughters and a son-in-law. Read her Tuesdays on Douglas County Moms. Also check out her personal blog here.

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The News-Review Updated Nov 18, 2013 07:35PM Published Jul 31, 2013 07:22PM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.