Unofficially, I did my Laurel's Lap and it was accomplished. Maybe I took longer than an able-bodied individual is capable of running, but the satisfaction of completing the task was experienced. Participation in any activity that shows what the disabled American can do to support the dream we each have was empowering. The need for inclusion towards a worthy cause was the result.
Granted, I am about two weeks late in achieving this short-term goal and only a handful of people saw me. No one cheered. No excitement from the mass of humanity at this year's Festival of Grapes.
To start off, I had to go against the onslaught of people exiting the park. Timing was needed because running over people is not the thing to do. There was a gentleman in a gray seated scooter who simply flew by me. He may have been late in getting to wherever he was headed. Such busy lives we older and disabled Americans lead. We all lead busy lives.
The vendors' electrical cords were also a concern. These cords were protected by threshold ramps which made it easier to maneuver around the track of the village ballpark.
To my right were buildings that I believe were bedroom apartments. Below the apartments, craft vendors lined this particular area. The occasional game of chance appeared as I passed by the first hundred feet of the track. To the left was a huge slide. It was locked - entry forbidden. I presume that was because of the lateness of the day. It was around 5 p.m.
When I reached the midpoint of the park, that's where the man in the gray seated scooter appeared. Then quickly disappeared. I didn't take the time to see where he was headed.
For a brief moment I scanned the journey taken and thought, "Halfway there." I then came upon the little bridge that led out of the park. I could not see the level of the creek water, yet knew it was pretty dry. Starving for water. I couldn't hear the creek nor any of the sounds of the normally active creek bed. The noise was muffled out by all the activities of this, the 45th Annual Grape Festival.
There were a few parked cars and the occasional carnival truck that these events have. As I headed past the beer tent, which was still to my right, I paused but knew I must keep going. No time for a break. To the left were the amusement rides. Access to the portable facilities is a problem. The wheelchair is just a bit oversized.
A little farther down the track and still to my right were the fenced-in tennis courts, which housed the three or four winery vendors. The gated wine tasting tents were safe under lock and key. Not that wine tasting is a problem for many, but I was on a mission to complete my personal Laurel's Lap.
Arriving at the grade leading out of the park, I realized my companion was not with me. I didn't look completely around. He was in my blind spot. It was only two or three seconds, yet one of those moments can be frightening. I knew where I was. Just concerned about another's wellbeing.
I got back to the Main Street sidewalk, rolled past the church and started feeling a bit hungry. My companion purchased a serving of curly fries. I ate about half of them. Yes, they were a bit greasy, but that's what people do at the Festival of Grapes. Eat and reminisce.
My companion spoke with Ed, one of his fellow classmates. I spoke with him as well. The entertainment for the Festival of Grapes was about to begin. Many of you know Terry Buchwald. I knew him before he became an Elvis impersonator. In fact, I said, "Hey Terry, remember me?" He just nodded and said, "I've got to get ready," and headed toward his dressing area. We're all busy. He didn't have the time to talk. I understood.
I listened to one song (of Terry B.'s) and then traveled via wheelchair to the '70s Class Reunion. Saw a few of my classmates, then my former social studies teacher, Mr. Wayne Hotelling. I told him of completing the Laurel's Lap and that was one of my goals for the day. Wayne was to speak at the '70s Class Reunion and in turn a donation to the Laurel Run would be made by the Reunion Committee.
Participation. It's something I'm still capable of doing. It just takes me a bit longer to become actively involved. I was unable to be in the parade on Sunday to collect money for the food pantry. There's always next year.
Michael J. Henry is a Sheridan resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.