So I have this friend who has cerebral palsy which affects his brain in such a way he falls down on occasion. He actually used to refer to himself as the FallGuy because he was known to fall down, especially when forced to negotiate stairs. Years ago, he and I both found ourselves working as high school camp counselors at a small Seventh Day Adventist College in the Napa Valley with lots of rolling hills and lots and lots of stairs all over the campus…everywhere. I’m pretty certain that J thought that he was in Hell except we were counselors for a Christian Church high school camp and how could that possibly be Hell except for the fact that we were surrounded by teenagers who couldn’t find their own toothbrush at a college campus that had absolutely no caffeine or meat because it was a Seventh Day Adventist college campus in a Seventh Day Adventist town and there was no caffeine or meat (or alcohol) to be found anywhere, at least on that campus in that town. Oh, and did I neglect to mention that it was summertime and it was over 100 degrees every freaking day. Perhaps it was pre-Hell. It sure as hell felt like it.
Still J managed in spite of the obvious pain it was for him to get around and try to keep up with the kids we were in charge of. But he did. So I kept my whiny, bitchiness to myself and felt deeply ashamed of myself for wanting, more than anything in the world, a coke…a damn coca-cola! J was climbing a mile of stairs everyday in the 100 degree heat in spite of his obvious physical disability and pain. How could I possibly bitch about the fact that I couldn’t find one damn Diet Coke? Then we were granted a free afternoon and we jumped into J’s car to find a burger and a coke. I’m sure we both would have loved a beer but this was a church camp and J, at the time, was under 21. Still we had free time and we were on a mission…in his beater car with no ac in the 100+ degree afternoon in the Napa Valley. Thankfully the burger and coca-cola gods were smiling down upon us and we found that which we were searching for…
an In-N-Out in nearby St. Helena!
:::cue the heavenly host of angels that truly wanted us to have caffeine and red meat because they did want that for us, they did:::
The parking lot was packed and there was but one parking spot available…a handicapped spot. J reached over into his glove box and pulled out his totally legit handicapped parking placard and placed it on his dash as he whispered to me, “don’t tell my mom I did this.”
Are you kidding me? I’m getting a diet coke and a burger. I’m good. Wait a minute. J has every right to park in a handicapped space because living with cerebral palsy he is indeed handicapped. He is the Fall Guy! But his mom raised him differently. Yes CP mangled his limbs in such a way that walking was painful and sometimes impossible. Yes he did fall down a lot as a child, as a teen, as a young man. Whatever! She raised him to not rely on that which limited him rather to rely on that which freed him…his brilliant mind, his wit, his story-telling, his incredible strength that gave him the ability to try to keep up to those high school aged kids we were in charge of as he tried to navigate all those freaking stairs at that Seventh Day Adventist college in the Napa Valley.
Seriously, my respect and admiration for J and his amazing mom (who is also a friend) doubled, tripled and even quadrupled that day. This was a man of integrity…raised by a women of integrity. They both could very well rest on that which twisted and tortured J’s body into something that was a little to the left of what is “normal”. But they did not. At least J’s mom did not and raised J to not. Yes he did from time to time fall back on the “privilege” oif being physically limited…handicapped. He had the handicap placard which he rarely used then and now. He has “enjoyed” the privilege of navigating Disneyland and Great America and Magic Mountain in a wheelchair and he has been known to include friends and family who have been with him to enjoy the privilege of handicap with him.
J is an amazing young man. J has cerebral palsy which has twisted and distorted his limbs in such a way that walking, much less standing is painful and sometimes nearly impossible. He might not always rely on this privilege that is being handicapped but when he does need it, it is there for him and he will use it.
So thinking about J, thinking about the amazing mom who raised him, thinking of dear friends who are raising children who are living with their own disabilities you wonder what I might think of rich Manhattan moms who hire handicapped tour guided so their kids can cut lines at Disney World or what I might think about airports in the US that are dealing with bogus requests for wheelchair assistance to enjoy the privilege of jumping security lines and early boarding access ahead of everyone else or those who use their sister’s or mother’s or auntie’s disabled parking placards so they can avoid parking fees or access to convenient parking without the disabled person with them.
all I can say is welcome! Welcome to your very own special place in hell! You so deserve it! You might not be enjoying it at this very moment…then again given recent news reports you are likely in the thick of it. Still you might not be so privileged to be reaping the rewards that you so richly deserve, but trust me, you will. You most definitely will. Lucky, lucky you!