Wednesday, July 24, 2013


He was walking with a slight limp, and, he was heading straight for me. I was sitting, quietly, waiting for Joe to arrive. Maybe my size creates some kind of planetary gravity that draws people directly to me, this happens all the time. He sits down and begins chatting, almost like we had been only briefly interrupted rather than never acquainted. His story, at least is interesting, although I began to grow uncomfortable when I realized that he was there to make a point.

He is new to walking. He used to use a wheelchair, then he used a walker, then he used crutches, now he is walking with only a slight limp. Several years ago he had surgery on the bones in his legs and after that surgery and with hours of work with a rehab therapist, he was able to move into a walker. Three surgeries later, many falls later, he is now walking fairly comfortably. He still needs one surgery, which he hopes will fix his limp.



But he went on and on and on and on about how hard it was in the wheelchair to go to the bathroom, to wash his face, to get pen and paper when on a call to Rogers, yada, yada, yada, all the stuff that I would, obviously, already know. The story of the surgery was one thing, this was quite another. He wanted something from me. He wanted me to acknowledge that he'd escaped disability status, that he was 'moving on up' and, I think, he wanted me to envy him.

I told him that I was pleased that he was happier.

But I didn't envy him.

Not even a little.

I thought it was interesting that he could have chosen dozens of other people to talk to, dozens who would have been, I'm sure, inspired by his story. But he didn't want that, he wanted my envy. At least that's what it seemed that he wanted. He kept prompting me to say something like, "Wow, lucky you, wow, poor me for not being you."

I didn't.

I honoured his journey and what it meant to him. I just made it clear that his journey was just that: his. My journey is just that: mine. It's a simple concept.

In the end he fell silent.

Bored with his own story.

Frustrated because I only listened, which to me is gift enough.

Then someone else with a disability came in, riding a vibrant red scooter, he was up and on his way. He was like a need seeking missile - I felt relief that he'd gone and wished that there was some universal, secret, sign between people with disabilities that indicated - "Beware Something Odd Is About to Happen to You."


Anonymous said...

I've always favored a system of lapel pins. :-)

Anonymous said...

As I understand it, the black power salute was/is used by movements for other identities too, and is a gesture of defiance and solidarity.
I wonder what it would be like if it was more widely recognised and used.
I wonder what the impact of seeing two rollers exchange this, would be on the new walker?

william Peace said...

Was the person in question elderly? I have had comparable experiences with elderly folk who have an antiquated notion of disability. Disability is a medical problem period. A problem that can be overcome. There is no connection to civil rights.

Dave Hingsburger said...

No, he was, to me, quite young.

Alice and Aaron said...

Might be that he was looking for validation too? Like when any member of a community decides to leave, they always seem to want someone to go with them....or at least act like they want to. People are just odd.

Anonymous said...

I kinda chuckled reading how you draw others to you. It happens to me as well. I am a large person. In a group you may be an object of cruel taunting - but one on one you are often seen as a safe approach. I can't even count how many times I've been approached by complete strangers who tell me their tales and seek my advice. I try to remember that it is important to them, but admit there is a part of me that wonders why they think I'd care or it matters to me (what do they want). Is it because I am fat and disabled a good mark (hey, they can't run away) or is it because I appear to be someone who is perhaps a bit more understanding considering I too have trials? Either way, it is profiling. For now I choose to think well. I usually say. as a warning, that if someone asks my opinion, they will get it. Ha ha.

CapriUni said...

I once tried looking up videos on YouTube of people with cerebral palsy, because I wanted to illustrate a character, and I can't exact;y watch myself walking, and draw what I see.

A distressing majority of what I found were videos of parents filming their children's "progress" through therapy -- documenting just such a transformation as this young man described: from needing wheelchairs to walkers, to crutches to walking independently. What I did not see on these parents' channels were any videos of their kids' birthday parties, or of them painting pictures, or pulling silly faces. Frankly, it made me rather heart-sick.

If the missile-man had such an upbringing, I can easily see how he could have internalized the message that in order to receive love and respect, you must first go on the "Cure Journey."

Anonymous said...

'Need seeking missile' made me laugh so much. I think I'll be quoting you a lot.