Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ahead By a Nose

On our way to our next hotel, we stopped to visit with Mike and family in Ottawa. As it happened it was Ruby's first full day of school. She had been for a couple of hours one day two weeks ago and then a half day last week, then it was on to a full day. We knew we'd arrive just before she got out from school and Joe was happily planning for us to go with Mike to pick Ruby up. Her school is virtually across the street so it was handy.

I kept quiet because I didn't want to say what I was thinking. I'm writing this now, nervously, afraid of admitting what I'm about to admit. I decided not to go with them to pick her up. My reasoning? Well, I'm fat. I'm disabled. I'm nobody's poster child for physical beauty. Now, shut up, don't go all 'don't be so negative about yourself, inside you are beautiful'. Notice no one ever tells pretty people, the nice ones, how beautiful they are inside? Anyways ... Ruby loves me, accepts me and sees me as valued.

Her friends won't.

They will see her innocently run up to me and leap into my arms, as she does every time we see each other. This will give them something to hold over her head. Something to taunt her about. I didn't want to become a source of pain for her. I didn't want her to have to defend me - though she'd done that in the past. I didn't want to interfere with her socialization and acceptance of a new peer group. I love that kid and there are sacrifices you make when you love someone - mine was to wait in the apartment until she got home and hear her stories then.

The door opened and she ran to me, stopped when she saw presents on the floor waiting for her, then she refocused and came right over for a hug. As we drove to the restaurant for dinner, I asked her if any of the kids in her class were in wheelchairs like me.

'No,' she sighed a big sigh, 'they all only walk.'

'Well, poor them,' I thought, and then, quickly stole Ruby's nose. It was only fair, she had my heart after all.

15 comments:

Amanda Forest Vivian said...

they all only walk
awww!

badgermama said...

I'm kind of struggling between trying to respect your decision and telling you off for being so down on yourself and hiding! But, a) I don't actually know you b) it doesn't help if you're down on yourself to beat you up about it!

But, how about this. What if this were your child? Would you hide in your apartment? And consider what would grown up Ruby of the future have wanted you to do?

I don't think that having visibly fat, disabled friends interferes with a child's socialization... really! Nor knowing the skill to be fierce in your defense if other people are bigots.

The Untoward Lady said...

Maybe you're not alone in feeling that way, Dave. Maybe there's another loved one of someone in Ruby's class who's sitting alone, afraid that being seen with their child will subject them to ridicule. Maybe you'll never know.

That being said, I can't blame you for making the decisions you made. Although I feel that it is better to die in battle for our beliefs than to live our lives asking ourselves what we could have done can we really ask the same of our children? I wouldn't.

Anonymous said...

I have worked in "Special Education" for 25 years - sad to say, you are probably right. Ruby will defend you, and will suffer some from it - yes, it would make her stronger, but does she need to fight everyday? This is ONE day....I have a feeling she will pick up the gauntlet many many times for you in the future, she has shown strength of character and morals already.
Your life, your decision - no one, NO ONE fights the battle everyday, even GOD needed a rest after seven days. The decision you made, YOU made. It is not for us to judge.

coffeetalk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
coffeetalk said...

Rome wasn't built in a day, Dave. Maybe by the end of Ruby's first year in school you will have had the opportunity to introduce yourself to her friends. Let's be honest. You and I both know that once they get to know you, these kids will recognize your awesomeness just like the rest of us. (If I could type this in a whisper, I would) Timing is powerful, though. Godspeed, Dave.

Nathan Dawthorne said...

Your decision is your decision. Its your life. The only thing I think is you should think about coming out of the closet (again).

Hiding who you are... shadows many reasons why gays don't come out...

I say its time to come out and embrace BEING DIFFERENT. If everyone who was different hid then a) there is no exposure to those who are different b)no one can confront bigotry when it happens.

Oh Dave :(

Tamara said...

Just want to say I totally understand your decision. My older kids had to deal with a lot of nastiness at school when our youngest was born with Down syndrome. If there is a way to put that off for a little while - especially at her age - then I don't see a problem with it.

I'm sure you won't stay away forever. :-)

Anonymous said...

Wow- touching, poignant. Thank you for sharing.

bigfun said...

Dear, dear Dave,

My work/life schedule is irregular enough that sometimes I go for a few days before getting back to your blog. And every time I do, I'm so happy. Even when the subject is challenging or sad, I'm happy to "connect" with you again. Your writing is so vivid that I feel as though I am there with you and Joe. I always learn something new, or am reminded of something I had forgotten. Thank you for sharing your life. You will never know how many people you have blessed.

Belinda said...

Wow, the dance of life, the complexities of relationships, all of these are in this post. No one can second-guess our steps in the dance; they are our own.

Brenda said...

You are definitely NOT alone in your feelings on this. I have three children, and I often had this internal battle within myself whenever there were school events. Would my children be reluctant to be seen with me? (Remember, I'm in a wheelchair too, and similar in size to you.) When they were little, I went because I had to. As they got older, I left it up to them. I decided that if they even hinted that perhaps they didn't want me to attend a certain event, I would back off. I didn't want to put them in the awkward position of having to explain exactly why they didn't want me there. But you know what? When given the option, they wanted me there. Every time. And they were happy I was there, and their friends were happy I was there. Instead of stares and ridicule, I often heard "Cool chair!", and "Neat camera!" (always around my neck at school events), and "Can I get a ride?". I was surprised, but pleasantly pleased. And so, I applaud you for giving Ruby her space for now. Yes, at her young age she may well experience the very things you are afraid of. But as she gets older, why not ask her what she would like? She's a strong, loving kid, who, I bet, will form friendships with other strong, loving kids. I say if she wants you there, show up with bells on! You'll both be glad you did!

Oh, and one more thing... said...

Sometimes I talk about finding a balance of how I spend my time, money, and emotional energy. It's tough to have to justify yourself to another advocate. Someone saying, well issue X is important, why aren't you standing up for it.

But you know what? I'm spending my time on Y, my money on Z, and my emotional energy in ways you can't even imagine. And I'm choosing not to expend any of them on X. Thank you very much.

And Dave, heaven knows you give and give and give your emotional energy every day. I totally understand wanting to keep your beautiful relationship with Ruby as a recharge, not an outgo. At least that's how your post struck me.

God bless!

Cynthia F. said...

Thanks for sharing this. Your love for Ruby is wonderful in all its many facets.

Kristin said...

Ruby is an amazing little girl...but, she does have some absolutely amazing roll models.