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  • May 2007
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He’s Lucky!

While sitting (in my wheelchair) waiting to pick my daughter up from school the other day, I had one of those small kid encounters that got me thinking. A roughly 3 or 4 year old little boy saw me sitting, and came over to ogle my chair (Note: Little kids don’t have all those social phobias about crips – they’re just curious). When he got over how big my wheels were, he wanted to know why I had a chair. After the (well-rehearsed) description about how my legs don’t work very well anymore, the requisite attempt to move the wheels himself, and the wheelie demo, his mom pulled him away. She was obviously a bit uncomfortable about her son’s casual attitude, and was giving him a (she thought) discreet lesson in the ‘proper’ sensitivity towards crips. His not-at-all subdued response? “But mom, he’s LUCKY!” Yep, exact quote. Mom shot me a panicked look, and hustled around a corner.

The event itself wasn’t all that unusual. I spend enough time in environments with many Small Ones and their parents, that I’m pretty used to the casual attitude of kids, and the uptight reactions of their folks. What hit me was the real honest-to-god sincerity in the kids words. He just plain couldn’t understand that there could possibly any downside to having such a cool set of wheels ALL THE TIME!

Over the past few days, this kid’s words keep poinging up in my brain all by itself. The accompanying random thoughts about ‘luck’ have been simmering along too. Lucky. Hmph.

My careers (all of them) are pretty much over. Decades of effort down the tubes. Yeah, so? Now my ‘career’ is teaching kids – something I could never have done as a job (at least not in public schools). Instead, I skate on the elementary school teachers efforts, and get to do the good stuff – actually teach – while they do the scut work. So what if they get some of the credit? I’m not working on a career anymore. Besides, the kids that matter know (and so do their parents) who’s doing what. I’m now putting together a non-profit dedicated to pursuing teaching the way I like. Who knows, maybe it’ll actually grow into a school. Sounds like a new career to me.

I can’t hike, climb, or bicycle anymore (or lots of other things). I haven’t found a good side of this (other than the fact that I can now do a wheelie for about as long as I want), but  my pecs, abs, and overall upper body are pumped. Compared to my days in the Army, I’m in way better shape now (at least above the pelvis). And I don’t have to do much in the way of exercising except pushing the chair around.

Time. I don’t spend 90 minutes driving to an office to do a job I mostly dislike anymore. Instead, I spend time with the school kids, at Temple, with my surrogate family, and doing things like blogging. Time stress is more or less a thing of the past – except when I choose to overbook myself (which I still do sometimes).

Sure, my income is about 1/10th of what it used to be – I actually made more as a graduate student than I do now. But I’ve always been able to make it on a pretty thin nickle. I get by without buying the latest, greatest toys, and I actually have to budget and think about where my money goes, but I still manage to make ends meet.

On the other hand, I’ve been freed from the daily drudgery of employment. Granted, I’ve replaced a lot of that with other types of commitments, but the difference is that now I can choose where I want to spend my time. Because my paycheck isn’t tied to what I do, I can simply walk away if one of my gigs starts getting too work-like. There are enough places where people want my skills (for free of course) that I can be really picky about what I do.

After a few days of thinking, that little boy really was right. I AM lucky. Not that I wouldn’t trade it all (well, nit the surrogate family, but everything else) for meat that works, but ya gotta find the silver where you can, eh?


5 Responses

  1. One of the (many) gifts that you have to offer now, that you may not have been able to give before, may be in teaching children (and their parents) how to accept the diversity that you represent.

  2. Yeah, what SHE said. Life takes unexpected turns – busy making other plans and all that – and you have a truly wonderful, instructive attitude about your “differently abled” lot in life. You’ll shrug and flash a “whatever’ look but you have so much to teach. Not the least, your facility with snark.

  3. Yeah, eh?

    What SHE said. Your capacity for both adapting, teaching, ranting and snarking is truly impressive. You will probably shrug and say, “Whatever,” but your attitude of engagement on so many levels is tremendous. Many people, myself included, (wait! Is that grammatically correct? Dang!), have a lot to learn from you. Lucky surrogate family!!

  4. OK folks, I have a couple of follow-ups now…
    Mrs Chili: the idea of teaching kids and parents to accept the diversity I represent -OK, I guess that idea goes down a bit awkwardly, but I’ve heard it before, and I guess it simply reflects reality…
    Organic Mama: “differently abled”? you’ve spent too much time in public schools. “DISabled” is accurate. If you don’t believe it’s a disability, I invite you to spend a day or two living with it…. Save the PC crap for the kiddies….
    And of course, thanks to both of you for the compliments – they really are appreciated!

  5. Yo, Dude, the quotation marks around “differently abled” were there to indicate derision for the PC term, something that obviously failed. I know all that, and I am sorry if it seemed that I was that naive – am not. I know it;s a disability and I scorn those who believe in the OTHER term.

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