My children grew up going to Cedar Point, an amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio. In fact, for a few years, starting when they were just three and one, we hired a babysitter and brought the teenager to the park with us. That way the children could ride the rides, but then when it was time for their naps or time for bed, my husband and I could stay at the park and ride the big roller coasters.
We tried a couple of different amusement parks over the years, but we always returned to Cedar Point because it was our favorite. In July of 2014 our summer vacation ended with one final stop after we’d been to South Carolina. Of course that stop was Cedar Point. It was our best time at the amusement park ever! The four of us ran everywhere with me bringing up the rear. We rode everything! The kids had no fear. We laughed. I screamed in delicious coaster fright. As we left the park that evening we all couldn’t stop talking about how much fun we’d had and how it was literally our best Cedar Point trip ever!
And as we planned our 2015 summer vacation to Virginia Beach there was really only one request from the fifteen and thirteen year old. They wanted to make sure we stopped at Cedar Point on the way home.
The illegal U turn of a Ford Explorer on a West Virginia highway took away our 2015 Cedar Point stop and oh. . .so much more.
For awhile, after the wreck, returning to Cedar Point was a pipe dream. And frankly, just thinking about it was painful. We rode coasters. How do you ride coasters when you are paralyzed? We ran everywhere. Well, the four of us certainly wouldn’t be running everywhere anymore. How in the world could we possibly return to a place of such happiness and fond memories when all it would do was throw the obvious in our faces? Now we are different. Now nothing is normal. Now nothing is ever the same.
As our daughter grew physically stronger after the wreck she began to ask to return to Cedar Point. She truly asks for so few things in life so we checked with her spinal cord injury doctor in Chicago, as well as her therapist. Being cleared to ride roller coasters in 2018 was the greatest earthly reward anyone could have given her. And it was then I knew we’d need to return to Cedar Point and not only battle paralysis, but also battle the memory ghosts of the roller coasters.
We know that amusement park as well as we know our own property. And every nook and cranny reminded me of a wonderful moment in our lives. The bumper cars that always illicit the “Gold 16” story of two year old Cam. The Snoopy restaurant where we celebrated Cam’s 4th birthday as the staff sang to him while he stood on his chair smiling with pride. The Wicked Twister where Chad and Alissa bailed and Cam and I stayed on as I didn’t utter a sound because I was too scared to scream. The Top Thrill Dragster where an incredibly brave Alissa and Cam made it happen. And the Matterhorn, the first “big ride” that two little children could ride by themselves. I can still see the looks on their faces as they held hands and Alissa ran and jumped everywhere to ride it again and again and again, as little brother followed behind.
All day long I battled the memories while simultaneously trying to live in the moment. I tried to be thankful for what we had and thankful for what we still have. I thought a lot about other people. I thought about my friends who are divorced and have experienced other losses. Is this the way they feel when they remember special occasions or places? As you can imagine, Dear Reader, my heart ached for many family members and friends as I thought through the hardships and heartaches that many people I love battle.
Yes. We had to go back to Cedar Point. We had to go back so we could move forward. In some ways it was more difficult than I thought it would be and in some ways it was easier.
When the children were twelve and ten we got one of those old time photographs taken at Cedar Point. My husband is not known for easily parting with a penny but he suggested we get an updated old time photo again this year. We were delighted! The old time photo studio was accessible. We all put on the vintage western clothes and my daughter transferred to a period piece chair. Her wheelchair isn’t even visible in our new “old” photo.
We’ve by no means won the war against paralysis, but by golly, we fought those roller coaster ghosts and we won that particular battle.
Praying blessings for you, Dear Reader, as each of us battles our own roller coaster ghosts; whatever those may be.
Until next Wednesday, Lord willing.