Issue Date: October 1, 2004
By BILL ZALOT
I am 49 years old and depend on others to bathe, dress and shave me. I spend up to 16 hours a day in my wheelchair. At times, I feel like a puppet subject to the whims of others.
So when I had the chance to do something in which I would be in control, free of someone elses goodwill, I took the opportunity.
I went parasailing.
It wasnt an easy decision. I have spastic cerebral palsy. Even with a blue sky, a gentle breeze and temperatures in the mid-70s -- a perfect day to parasail -- there was much at risk for me. Weather sometimes plays a part in my bodys stiffness, but it is not the only factor. I can also become stiff if I feel apprehensive. I knew that if I thought about it too much, I would back out.
Im glad I didnt.
I had my great adventure on the last full day of our family vacation. My brother-in-law Mike lifted me out of my wheelchair, and I, with nine other family members, embarked on a two-hour boat ride. My nephew Justin and I were the last to take flight. As we went up, my leg had a spasm and my stomach seemed to leave me -- but, thank God, these sensations didnt persist long enough to stop me.
In my journal that day, I wrote, Though I needed to be carried onto the chute, once in flight I felt I had complete freedom. In the chute, I was an equal to those who ventured with me to rise 500 feet above the ocean. For those 10 minutes I was in the air able to forget my physical limitations.
When I was flying, I was able to forget my dependency on others; with the help of a days gentle wind, I felt like a puppet with no strings -- totally free!
Afterward, back in my wheelchair, I felt emotionally drained, yet happy. I thought of Peter, James and John at the Transfiguration. On that August day I had my own mountaintop experience. I realized that if it werent for my faith, I wouldnt have dared to try an adventure I will never forget.
Bill Zalot writes from Levittown, Pa.
National Catholic Reporter, October 1, 2004
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