I don’t talk about my disability much.
It might explain some things about me but it doesn’t define me. It’s not how I want to be identified. More because I’ve learned over the years self-pity is debilitating. It’s a vicious narcotic – something to stay the f**k away from.
That said, my life began waking up in ICU in a hospital bed with two people next to me. My first memory is trying to air-spell ‘Who are you?’ and ‘What happened?’ Turns out they were my Mom and Step-Dad. And I’d been hit by a car. I was seven years old.
Story went I had received a new bike – a cool one with tall handle bars, tassles, and a banana seat. Remember them? Well, a next door neighbor older kid wanted to ride it bad, real bad, shiny new that it was, so he said he’d ‘teach me how to go down hills.’ And off we went, him pedaling, me on the back. Next thing we were flying down the steepest, tallest hill in that part of Poughkeepsie. Apparently, at the bottom he saw the taxi coming, couldn’t stop, and jumped off. Leaving me on the back. To get hit by the taxi.
I ended up crumpled on someone’s front lawn.
Later it came out a nurse caring for an elderly patient in a nearby house heard the accident and called an ambulance. Don’t know her name and never even met her, but she’s the reason I can write this today. (‘Grace of God’ and all that, I know, but…) Paramedics arrived, gave me an emergency tracheotomy on the scene, and brought me into ICU in a coma – where I stayed for some days and a lot of operations. (in a coma, in the hospital)
I had to learn how to walk again. Talk again. Today I can’t walk all that well and I’ve been told I talk too much, so you decide how effective the rehab was.
Fact is I get being different. Self-conscious. Being ostracized, excluded, picked last, picked on, teased, mocked, misunderstood, underestimated, condescension… I don’t remember anything BA ‘Before Accident’, so those things have been part of my life as long as I can remember quite literally. As has the physical disabilities with attendant insecurity, pain, lack of mobility, and the inevitable deterioration that comes with wear and tear, and age.
I could go and talk about more recent surgeries, one where I hugged my kids the day before the operation knowing it might well be for the last time. But I’m not writing this to cry ‘Poor Me’ or catalog my struggles. I loathe the faux ‘high moral ground’ of victimhood. It’s an insidious mirage disguising nothing but quicksand. I can’t go there.
I’m writing to tell you it’s not what you can’t do that matters, it’s what you can do. That’s what counts. That’s what you’ve got to keep at, focus on, and do. It has taken me years to learn that in my bones. And only with God’s help.
Is it hard? Does it hurt? Do things backfire or fall flat? Do I feel like quitting, saying “F**k all y’all” sometimes?
But I can’t escape the cast-iron, cold hard fact that it’s true. Forward is really the only direction God has given us. You’ve got to get up and keep going.
And those other people? The critics, the nay-sayers, Job’s comforters? It’s mind over matter, baby: those that matter, don’t mind, and those that mind don’t matter.
Today, I’m married to a beautiful woman, the same woman for 29 years. I have three adult children, three grandchildren, who I love with all my heart. I run a stained glass studio – have for 16 years. I’ve written books, plays, poems. I’ve had the privilege of leading ministries, even being an inner-city missionary in Canada for three years. And my life isn’t over.
So that’s a bit of my story. I don’t know the road you’ve got to walk. I might sympathize, empathize, but I can’t really know it, ’cause it’s yours.
But as a fellow traveler a bit further down the road, I can say ‘You can do this. Keep going’.
It’s worth it.