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subject: Unbelieveable!

date: 10/17/2008 09:07:41pm

from: ALeonard

to: Rollin'Doc

Dear Edward,

I can't believe I'm writing you from the Cayman Islands! I sent you a postcard and I'll be home before you ever get it, but there was no way I could ever tell you about my day in that tiny amount of space, nor could I wait till Wednesday to call you. You told me I could have a good life if I embraced it instead of hiding from it… I had such an incredible experience today. I had to share it with someone, and you were the first person who came to mind!

Have you ever been scuba diving? Dude! It's incredible.

My parents stopped by to surprise me for my birthday on Thursday morning. They gave me a plane ticket and in a matter of hours I was sitting on a plane with my pop to the Caymans.

Airport security was a pain in the ass over the hardware that was used to fuse my spine. They gave me a hard time, even with the letter my dad got from my surgeon, but after a physical pat down and a hand scan, I guess they realized I wasn't smuggling any contraband and just wanted to get onto the plane.

The flight staff, once I got through security, was wonderful. Their boarding chair left a little to be desired, but it was doable.

I had to leave my chair at the departure gate, and when I got to my destination gate at the end of the flight in their teeny, tiny wheelchair, my chair was nowhere to be found. I'm embarrassed to admit I had a meltdown, but my dad kept his head and eventually it appeared, a little battered and bruised; but I was so happy to see it, I didn't even care.

I am definitely glad that it's a manual chair with little to break. I can't imagine the level of trust that would be required for an individual to leave a power chair in the hands of strangers. Before my paralysis I would have never even considered something like that. It's amazing how many things I think about; really think about, through different eyes now.

I don't think people realize sometimes, that this is our freedom, our livelihood. Without my chair, I can't even leave my bed in the morning. Boy, I sound like a hypocrite, don't I? I can remember when I adamantly refused, telling you and Jill I was at rehab to get better.

I did get better there though, didn't I? I didn't realize then that it wasn't just my body that was broken. I can't imagine how empty and lonely my life would be, had I not gone there, had I not met you, Jill, Sasha… The depression was eating me alive. Now, I have so much to live for. I've got the world in the palm of my hands.

When I got on that plane, I had no idea I'd be swimming with Sting Rays the following afternoon. Buddy, it was the most amazing thing. I thought a dive vacation was something I might like to try once I was a little more independent, I had no idea my dad was really paying attention when I was telling my Mom about the dive vacations people go on, or that he knew I'd been taking an online e-learning course. It's a little ironic; I was to the point where all I had left to do was drive up to Vancouver and get certified. But my dad beat me to it and I'll get my first certification in the waters off Grand Cayman Island!

There were about twenty of us in our group. A diver's level of ability determines the number of dive buddies you're required to have. They decided I was a level B diver, so I had to swim with two certified 'buddies'.

You should have seen them trying to work my body into a wetsuit, but the staff here is great and they never complained once about the level of assistance I required. We did a pool dive last night, and then a guided dive in the ocean today. It was a little embarrassing learning to dive with the little kids in a pool, but I had to do that before they'd let me go out on a boat.

I thought the wetsuit would be restrictive, but when I got into the water, all I could think about was how freeing it was. My body was weightless; in fact they had to weight my ankles to keep me level.

I'm doing a short course this weekend, but after we come home, Dad says we'll continue to dive in Vancouver. It was a blast doing this with him, just like the good old days where we went on some adventure.

He wants to get certified as a dive buddy so that he can assist me more. It was really nice to have a few days with him one on one. We haven't talked about work or school... we've just enjoyed being together. It was a little surreal. I never realized how much I missed that… him.

Grand Cayman... the water is unreal. It is so blue! And crystal clear- it's unbelievable what you can see. Today we dove near a shipwreck. We snorkeled in a shallow area and saw all sorts of crazy marine life. Warm water lobsters don't have claws! They have spikes! Who knew? And the sting rays swim with you, bump into you, let you touch them. The coral and sea sponges were pretty cool too. I've never experienced anything like it!

We bought an underwater camera. You'll die when you see the pictures we took. I'm attaching them to this email.

Tomorrow we're doing another guided dive. I thought I'd be tired after being in the water for so long, but it was really relaxing and I feel pretty good. I don't feel so spastic today. It's kinda weird, ya know?

You have got to bring Bella down here. It would be a great place to take a honeymoon, if you get my drift. ;-)

Tell Alice I'll see her on Tuesday night. I really miss the pixie. I guess I'm spoiled. Between my two girls, I'm entirely too pampered. My dad isn't nearly as gentle when he helps me. LOL

Well, Buddy, I'm finally starting to feel like I could crash. I was too keyed up earlier to sleep, even if I had wanted to. I'll talk to you when I get home.

Later dude!


Many thanks to Debbie and Karen for looking over this for me.

In a collaborative effort with my daughter(Musicflare87), a One Shot was written for the Fandoms4Autism fundraiser compilation. The piece was a little different for me to write. You'll see.

Betti Gefecht and I have often joked about swapping Edwards, and for this cause, she made loan of Little Green.

Humbled doesn't begin to describe how it felt for her to entrust her dear boy to us and we can never begin to thank her enough for the lovely banner she created for our story. Thank you baby, a thousand times.

If you're interested in receiving the compilation, you can snag a copy for a small donation. Final day to donate is May 25. The compilation will be released on May 26.