Speechless over Speechless

Watching a version of your life on a 50” TV is a little intimidating. So I avoided it for as long as I could.

Sure, I was curious, but as I read articles in the Denver Post, or researched the series on IMDB, I found myself holding my breath and noticed I was as anxious as a kid waiting for a report card. I found myself speechless over Speechless.

I recognized myself in Mini Driver’s character, Maya DiMeo as she captured my terror and determination.  The look in her eyes, I felt my heart flutter and not in a right way.   I walked away in search of my breath, startled by my reaction to events from so long ago, then I realized panic and persistence still reside deep inside my ribcage.

Once an inclusion pioneer, always an inclusion pioneer. The terrain changes, but the journey is the same.

The flashback is bitter and sweet. The tears shed the anger and frustration, the dogged determination for Mikelle to be more than just accepted in regular education. To be seen, heard and respected for the courage to be the only one in a wheelchair, the only one who used a digital voice in many of her schools.

Weeks passed, and I successfully avoided watching the online show waiting for the premier on September 21st. Initially, I thought about watching it with Mikelle, making it a “movie night” experience. “It will be fun…”, I told her as I attempted to convince myself. She gave me the look. The one where her head is bent down enough for her glasses to slide down her delicate nose revealing those rich brown apple seed eyes. ‘Really?’ They said. It was then I appreciated her lack of enthusiasm to relive those school years. I recorded it. Maybe this weekend, it is supposed to rain, the condo will be quiet, and it will just be us.

Everyone I knew was excited to watch the premier. My mother, my friends but not my son. “Mom, I know how this story goes.” He said. “Been there, done that.” Clearly, we were all uneasy. The painful past had a grip on the present. Grief still burns and throbs after all these years.

The night of the premier, I walked down to a local tavern and order a burger and a beer and watched football re-runs. As I walked up the hill towards home, my evasion tactics fell away with each step. Once Mikelle settled down for the night, I sat down on the couch, let it wrap me up and reached for the remote to watch Speechless in the silence.

The first scene drew me into the chaos of school mornings, the drama of finding the right school and the impending nausea of living on the edge of constant crisis. It seems like a simple goal—get an excellent education for everyone in the family.

It is an ambitious mission requiring sacrifices. Fear and fearlessness go hand-in-hand as they walk through the decades to come. Stability rarely comes from such an unstable world. Everyone from parents to para’s and from students to siblings, sit squarely on the tinderbox question, “Can I do this?” Can I care for my kid? Can I be a good brother or sister? Can I get what I want? Can I teach this child?

There were many reasons why I wondered if “I could.” From Mikelle’s first diagnosis, the focus was on what she couldn’t do and most likely would never do by medical and educational professionals. Even some friends and family had doubts.

Good thing we grow into our problems. Heck, we even become stronger and reach beyond our difficulties.

Mikelle and I did make our mark on the school system, touched the lives of many, and as Mikelle graduated “Outstanding Senior” from East High School, every tear was worth it.  Our success became everyone’s success.

If you doubt anything, doubt your limits.

About Katherine Carol

Special needs & community expert, speaker, co-author of The Tango of Publishing and Shining Beautiful, with Mikelle Learned, book coach, mom, and community builder.

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