Chapter 18 Walk With Me

Walk With Me-18

I tried really hard to maintain an effective education plan. I was good at English, Literature, and Natural Sciences. I found out Josh loved Geography. Maps excite him. He’s a wonderful traveler, and once I found out about his interest in maps, I always made sure to mark out our travel routes on a big Atlas and placed it in the van so he could follow our route.

More than once, in the rear-view mirror (I have it set so I can see him while I’m driving) I’ve caught him looking in the direction we need to turn way before we get there. And he loves the GPS system even more because it shows an actual car on a road and it has a voice. He loves being the designated navigator. It’s a job he can handle.

But I’m really bad at Math. I don’t like numbers. Josh seems to handle them just fine, but I’m pretty sure I short-changed him in the math department. And even though I like History, I was never able to tell if Josh ‘got’ it. Things in the past don’t seem to interest him. I was never sure if it was an inability to calculate time that has passed or if he simply doesn’t care about it. When I’d try to teach him ‘History’ he often tuned me out.

He loves game shows. Especially the ones that spell. Lingo is a particular favorite but he also likes Jeopardy, Password, and Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader. Actually, I don’t think he’s ever met a game he didn’t like.

I had a brainstorm the other day. During these holiday months, our home is deluged with catalogs. One of them has DVD’s. Movies, audio books, TV shows but I noticed they also carry classes. A light went off in my head. Why not see if I can get Josh educational DVD’s? When I asked him if he would be interested, he gave me a big ‘yes’. His eyes went up, and up, and up. Telling me ‘yes, yes, yes.”

It will be interesting to find out what he wants to learn. I’ll find out what’s available; both online and through the local Jr. College. I know the world I grew up in has changed dramatically and degrees can even be gotten online now. I am hoping to find educational DVD’s that will help Josh gain some of the knowledge that I should have been able to give him but simply lacked the skill to do so.

I really hope that families who choose home-schooling are given more ‘tool’s’ now than I was offered. I didn’t even receive a syllabus. I felt like I’d been thrown to the wolves. I do think I made the right choice for Josh but it feels more like I chose the lesser of two evils. I do know that if I hadn’t chosen to withdraw him from the school system, I never would have known an artist lived inside him. For that, I’m very grateful.

On the art front, something very exciting happened for Josh. While in Ransom one day, a friend approached my husband and asked him if Josh would consider donating a painting to the Ducks Unlimited Live Auction they held every spring.

Hank came home and asked Josh. Again, we got the big ‘yes’. He was ready to share his work publicly.

I don’t remember what that first painting was. I think it was sunflowers. I do remember the event. Ducks Unlimited is a non-profit charity that is devoted to preserving and expanding wildlife habitat. Every spring, the local chapter put on a rib-eye dinner. Auctioneers donate their time and energy to auction off art items. Usually the items sold are from the National Wildlife Association but there were a few special items donated by local artisans.

The items made and donated by local people always brought the highest bids but that first year. I don’t think Josh realized what he was getting into.

I have to say, the local chapter of Ducks Unlimited put on a heck of an event. The food was excellent. The artwork was wonderful with prints by nationally famous artists. To see Josh’s little sunflower painting sitting among the big-name works sent him into almost a panic.

I didn’t expect him to react like that. I don’t think I realized, at that point of time, how important the art was to Josh. He enjoyed the auctioneer, and took great delight in hearing him talk so fast. I even helped Josh bid on a few items and I’m sort of glad he needed my help because he got caught up in the bidding. If he had been an independent bidder, I’m quite sure he’d have ended up spending more than he had brought with him.

Then his painting came up for bid and his face changed. His eyes looked frightened and he ducked his head. He wouldn’t look at anybody. I had to fight back tears because it upset me to see him so worried. But an amazing thing happened.

When the auctioneer opened the bidding, bids started flying in, fast and furious, Josh’s head popped up. He was so surprised. That’s when I realized he’d been afraid no one would bid. That no one would want his painting. As the bids came, the look on his face is one I can’t describe. I had to grab a napkin off the table because I couldn’t hold back tears and when I looked at my husband, he was wiping his eyes too. Nobody who watched Josh that night could help but be moved.

That first little painting sold for $200.00. Over the next eight years his paintings went up and up as he got better at what he did. The highest bid his work sold for was $1700.00 and he was consistently either the top seller or second every year, bringing in more money per item than the nationally recognized artists.

Ducks Unlimited is an organization dear to Josh’s heart. Those fund raising events were a highlight of his year. For me, it made me feel good because Josh was accepted for the young man he is. We’d wheel him into the room and men all over the room would greet him by name. Josh felt a part of them, accepted by them; not because of his disability but because of his ability. They respected his contribution to their cause. I wish there were more opportunities for him to be seen in that light.

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