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Teenage transformation

Some parents may not experience overwhelming anxiety when it comes to raising children and how they will turn out. I wouldn't know, as I've only got one who's been with me for 14 years and I think I've worried most every step of the way about the man he will become.

Our recent vacation has eased much of that anxiety. Simply put, my son is transforming into all I've worked for, all I've ever wanted.

The first leg of our vacation included a concert at the Gorge Amphitheater, which, in turn, required my first stint in a wheelchair.

I've got a condition that prevents me from walking any distance of length and especially on uneven and uphill terrain. I knew going into it that without a wheelchair, I couldn't go.

When we got to the Gorge, Dennis pushed my wheelchair to prevent me from hurting my arms (they aren't trained to do this and much of the wheeling was uphill). He did it with an eagerness to help his mother that I'd never really seen to this magnitude.

Our next stop was to stay over at a friend's in Moses Lake. This required unloading luggage and necessities. Again, no complaints from the 14-year-old who has a reputation for being lazy and griping relentlessly about any kind of work.

He then loaded the car for our trek to Idaho. No complaints, just hard work and occasionly barking at me to stop working and watch.

By the time we hit my oldest brother's house, Dennis was ingrained to work hard. My brother owns a commercial painting business and Den felt strongly that what he learned by painting a home as part of the Loving Sunnyside Initiative could contribute to his uncle's business. For the first time ever, Dennis was practically begging for his uncle to put him to work.

At our next stop, setting up camp in the mountains of the St. Joe Valley where the rest of the family was, Dennis demonstrated the same eagerness to help-not just for me, but for anyone who needed it.

The real testament to his budding maturity came when he met a pretty 14-year-old girl. Dennis was charming, sweet and proper. And when she turned her attentions to another 14-year-old boy at camp after spending a solid 24 inseparably with him, all Dennis had to say was, "I wish this wasn't happening."

This is all a far cry from the 2, 10, 12, and 13-year-old Dennis I knew.

At camp, all of my family and longtime friends were amazed at the young man he is becoming. He even grinned while chopping wood for the first time!

When I asked him what it feels like to get endless praise for who he is becoming, all Dennis had to say was, "Frankly, it's embarrassing."

I've never enjoyed his company as much as I did on this trip, and since we're so tight, that's saying something. I kept thinking, "I can't believe how much I'm loving his company!"

I've prayed for him, worried for him and hurt for him over the years.

Maybe this is incredibly selfish, but for many years (until I fell in love with Scott Staples), it was me and Dennis against the world. And I can't help but think that every sacrifice, every stern word and every expression of affection truly paid off for this 14-year-old who's becoming one heck of a fine young man.

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