I have been either teased or stared at almost every day of my life. There is an unrelentingness to the experience that weighs more than I do. As such, I don't ever want to be responsible for anything of the sort happening to another. I remember a long while ago, when Ruby started school, I decided NOT to go with her because I didn't want her association with me to result in her being teased. No one else really supported my decision but it was my decision to make, and I made it.
Ruby is staying with us for the week because she is attending summer camp at the Royal Ontario Museum. On Monday morning we all went together over to the ROM but I stayed up on the sidewalk as Joe and Ruby went down to register and get settled in. I waited again at the end of the day for the two of them to come up the stairs. We went off and had additional adventures in the city before coming home to all make dinner together.
At some point in the evening Ruby said to me, "Um, Dave, did you know that there is a ramp down to where Joe drops me off. That means you can come down too." I told her that I had noticed the ramp. That seemed to satisfy her, she wanted me to know it was there, she knew I knew. That was it. The next morning we went back with her and again I stayed up on the sidewalk and watched them go down to the registration area.
As I sat there kids and parents poured by and, as predictable as the laws of gravity, eyes lingered on me, fingers pointed, questions were hushed by parents. I was glad that these kids didn't associate me with Ruby because I desperately don't want her teased because of me. Knowing me shouldn't be painful.
This afternoon we went to pick her up and we got there a bit early. I'd been thinking about our conversation and realised that Ruby was asking me to come down to the reception area. She is a bright girl, she knew what she was asking, she knew what it meant. She knew the risk. She asked anyways. Last time it was my decision, this time it was hers.
I found the ramp and made my way down. There is a little alcove where I could tuck myself away, and I did, for no other reason than I wanted to surprise Ruby by being there. She loves to hide, she loves to seek ... I smiled while waiting for them to come. It took a while for her class to be let out, they ran a few minutes over, so at one point I peeked out to see if I could see them. I saw Joe wave towards the hallway, I knew he'd seen her, they'd soon be coming my way.
I pulled back, out of sight of where Ruby gets her stuff. Kids and parents strolled by. A small group of kids gathered as a group and stared at me, saying things in whispers and laughing. This lasted only seconds before a security guard was over and stepped in front of their view. I don't know what she said but they dispersed quickly, all looking sheepish.
Moments later Ruby came into view, she saw me, burst into a grin and ran towards me. She was travelling at high speed when she leapt onto my footrest and launched herself up into my arms for a big hug. Then she popped down, backed up and took another run at me. After three huge hugs we were on our way. The security guard, back at her post, smiled broadly and, I noticed, wiped a tear from her eye.
At the top of the stairs Ruby announced that she was tired and wanted a ride on my wheelchair, she jumped up and we were on our way. Because I'm me, I wanted to talk to Ruby about what happened but, also because I'm me, I thought about it long enough to understand to leave well enough alone.
I'm about to go to bed, tired from the day and the activity. I can still feel the impact of those flying hugs around my neck. It was one part affection and two parts declaration: Dave, mine.