Okay, there is no such thing as a real escape plan. But I do have one in my head, and on challenging days I put it into full steam ahead. I know I would never really carry it out; I’m much too practical, dedicated, and faithful. But I don’t claim to be so practical, dedicated, and faithful that I don’t think about it!
Getting away for coffee or a trip out of town for a weekend for those of us caring for someone with special needs is really a luxury. And in particular I’m thinking of getting away with my husband—just the two of us. While our son Joey, age 38, is a great traveler and companion, there are a lot of limitations that slow us down, make us rethink our options, and sometimes have us ending our day long before we’d have liked. So, when my (Cindi’s) sister and our two daughters and sons-in-law offered to tag team care for Joey, we booked a trip almost on the spot. We made a plan for our escape!
Our luxury was getting away for eighteen days to eastern Europe. Meals were made for us. Luggage was lugged for us! Beds were made for us. Plans were planned for us. We can’t believe how wonderful those eighteen days were. We had to be creative with those twins beds; lots of European hotels have two twins instead of a queen or king, and even the ones you can put together can be a little uncomfy. But creative is the key word; this isn’t a complaint, just a fact!
Once we made our escape plans, I set into motion our packing procedure: passports, flights, and making sure Joey had all he needed for his time away. He thinks he only needs a stack of 24 VHS’s, Wii, CD’s, and PS4 games. I make sure he packs underwear.
Along with his underwear, clothing, meds, shaver, important papers, toothbrush, and games, I also made him a little journal notebook. On each page I wrote the date so he could follow along and know how long it would be until we returned, though I’m not sure he cared! Seriously, he had it made with all the helpers who made his time fun! The journal also included these headings for each caregiver to let us know what they did and how Joey did:
What we did in the morning
What we did in the evening
Did he get a shower? (So each one knew if it was their turn to help him!)
How was Joey today? Maybe he can draw an emoji to explain
Joey, we love you and will see you in ______ days. Be good, have fun, and help out!
I also included little handwritten notes at the top of each page thanking the caregiver:
We can’t thank you enough for letting us get away. Yes, we’ll come back home.
THANK YOU for letting us take this trip. We’re so excited!
You have really blessed us to get away like this. WOW!
We gave each of the three caregiver families an envelope with some money to go towards food or something like a movie or game place, attached to the pages on the days they cared for Joey. There were also several envelopes for Joey to open just saying “hello,” “we love you,” and on the day we arrived home, a birthday card for him until we could see him to give him his gift!
Since Joey is mostly non-verbal, keeping this little journal notebook was a way for us to know what he did, for each family not to have to share every detail with us personally, and for us to know if there were challenges we needed to talk about when we got home. It also was nice to see the fun things they did but might forget to tell us—like reading Wonky Donky, playing video games and seeing Toy Story 4. Keeping the notebook let us talk to Joey about what he did when we got home.
All in all, the time away for all of us was great. Our great escape is now a memory in our rearview mirror, but truth-be-told—if anyone offers—we already know where we’re going on our next escape!
Dr. Joe and Cindi Ferrini are authors, speakers, and bloggers for several blogging sites on family and special needs. They speak nationally for FamilyLife Weekend To Remember Marriage Get-a-Ways, authored Unexpected Journey – When Special Needs Change our Course, and have been interviewed on Focus on the Family, FamilyLife, and various other radio and television venues. Connect with them at www.cindiferrini.com and social media at: www.facebook.com/cindi.ferrini, www.facebook.com/UnexpectedJourney/, www.facebook.com/MyMarriageMatters/