Sunday, May 18, 2014

I Saw Red

'Should I?'

'Shouldn't I?'

'Should I?'

'Shouldn't I'

The battle was going on in my head as I approached him. Joe and I had just dined 'al fresco' having home made crates from a hot dog stand on the street. They have way higher class hot dog stands here! We were both in a good mood and decided that we'd walk a few more blocks looking at some of the shops on the street before we turned back towards the hotel.

When we crossed to the other side of the street, we turned round and headed back. As soon as we'd made the turn. I saw him. The cutest little boy laughing and talking with his mother. His wheelchair was obviously lovingly cared for. The frame was a deep, and quite beautiful, red, polished to a luster. The wheels, the spokes and the frame just shone.

It started.

'Should I?'

'Shouldn't I?'

'Should I?'

'Shouldn't I?'

I wanted to say something to the kid. Something about his wheelchair. Something friendly. Something that made a bit of a connection wheelchair user to wheelchair user. But I also didn't want to intrude on his day. I didn't know how he, or his mother, would take a casual remark from strangers.

Then I thought, 'But I'll bet they get casual remarks from strangers all the time, a wheelchair, any wheelchair, being a magnet for social inappropriateness.' My goal was to make a casual remark without being inappropriate.


I did.

As we went by I said, 'I love the red frame of your wheelchair.' He turned, quickly to see who had spoken, and stared at me, in shock. I didn't think he was staring at me because of my size or for any other reason, he just looked at me, hard but with gentleness, as we passed. We were just going into a store, the door had been opened. When he called out:\

'I love the red! My dad polishes my chair every night! I can go anywhere in my chair!!!' His eyes were bright. Really bright! His grin was hug. Really huge!

I called back that I wish I had a cool chair like that one.

He clapped his hands in excitement.

I called 'bye.'

He called 'bye.'

His mother mouthed the words 'Thank you.'

She didn't have too.

She really didn't have too.


clairesmum said...

a bright red sports car - i bet he loves to go fast in it, too!
your calculation of pros/cons of whether or not a comment from a stranger might be unwelcome sounds brisk and experience-based.

Anonymous said...

My son love chatting with other wheelchair users. he loves comparing chairs and experiences. He likes knowing that there are others like him out there.

Penelope said...

I once got the grateful look from a mother whose child had a completely different impairment from my own. I was at the Big-E, the New England equivalent of a big state fair, with some friends. We were eating or something and a little girl came up to me to ask me about my wheelchair. While I'm not a fan of questions from adults, from kids I don't have a problem. I explained to her that my legs didn't work like hers, but that I could still walk a little, did a in-place 360-degree turn (manual wheelchair), and did a little bit more chatting. When we finished I got the grateful look from the mother, which semi-confused me, but it's okay. It wasn't until after they'd left that one of my friends told me that the little girl was wearing hearing aids.

Any time I see a kid who is obviously disabled (regardless, of whether it's anything like my own impairment) I try to make some acknowledgement that they see. As much as I hate the "inspirational crip" storyline, I want kids to know that there are disabled people out and about. It's good for the parents to know as well, but I'm far more concerned with the kids getting that message. I have too many friends who were disabled at a young age and were told the opposite. said...

You made her son happy....he was seen, celebrated....of course she wanted to thank you.

Glee said...

I'm glad you did Dave :)