Summer of Kayaking

September 19, 2018

This summer Robert had seven kayaking instructions at Sunapee Lake in New Hampshire.  Only one lesson was canceled due to thunderstorm.  Previous year, we weren’t so lucky. Each of the three scheduled lessons happened on the day with thunderstorm. Two summers ago, however, Robert managed to reach the first milestones  with the help provided by NEHSA volunteers. Although he preferred to share the boat with a volunteer and sit passively while the volunteer did all the work, nonetheless, with minimal persuasion he agreed to get in the kayak alone. That was very important. During one of those lessons, he was sitting in the kayak while two volunteers were standing in the water.  Robert was rowing from one person to another. Not a very long distance, but he moved  independently nonetheless. That made him feel in control of his vessel despite the fact that he didn’t know how to  turn his kayak so the volunteers kept doing that whenever he approached them. I considered it a great achievement anyway. During the third lesson that summer, two volunteers were also in kayaks, but were able to help Robert steer his vessel.

This year, Robert had to start from the beginning. During his first lesson,  he shared a kayak with a volunteer and had to be reminded over and over to move his paddle. During the following lesson he had a kayak all to himself, but still was reluctant to row.  As long as the wind was pushing him, he didn’t bother to move his paddle.. On the way back, he made slight attempts to return to the beach, but the volunteers had to, at some point, attach a rope to his boat and pull it to the beach.  I am not sure, how the NEHSA volunteers encouraged him to row by himself, but they did.  Moreover, they managed to teach him how to control the kayak and move in a chosen direction.

However, we encountered another problem. Robert clearly wanted to go to the Lake Sunapee for his lessons.  When asked, “Do you want to go kayaking?”  He eagerly replied, “Kayak, yes, yes, yes.”  Moreover, he kept pointing almost daily to a date on a calendar where it was written, “kayak”.   However,  as soon as he got into a boat and moved away from the shore he began pointing to the beach and by repeating, “There there, there”, he let the volunteers know that he wanted to return. With advanced  negotiating skills, the volunteers and Robert’s sister, Amanda, who accompanied him on a few excursions, convinced Robert to extend his stay on the lake and explore its different corners. Robert could be persuaded to do so but only up to the point.  Then his demands became louder and more dramatic. He had to get out of the kayak. Even more confusing to me was the fact that at least on two occasions, as soon as he got to the beach and helped carry his kayak out of the water, he wanted to go back on the lake.

We all had a few difficult moments.  Once, he fell asleep in the car and when he woke up at the parking lot, he started screaming as if something was hurting him.  But, he didn’t want to return home.  He went to a changing room and kept screaming while I stood by the entrance watching just this one cabin not sure what to do.  Then he stopped and had a very calm lesson.  Another time, Amanda had to convince him to spent a little more time on the beach and swim in the lake after kayaking.  It was not easy as Robert doesn’t like to mix two different things together.  For him a place is either for kayaking or for swimming.  In his mind you are not supposed to do both on the same trip.  So he protested at first, but then he followed his sister and swam for a few minutes.

The Lake Sunapee is two hours away from our home. Robert could stay on the lake between 45 minutes and an hour and a half.  But each and every trip was worth the effort, time, and gas as  it was expanding Robert’s world forcing him to adjust to new instructors, new instructions, and new corners of the lake.


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