Monday, May 13, 2013

Untitled or What if I Was Just Another Standard White Kid in the Neighborhood?

Sometimes I wonder what terrible tragedies might have befallen me if, by some cruel twist of fate, I wasn’t born crippled.

It gives me a cold chill to think about it. What if I was just another standard white kid in the neighborhood? Somebody might have made me take accordion lessons. The first time it really hit me how lucky I was to be crippled was when I fully comprehended what it means to have to take accordion lessons. Those poor kids always looked so bitter and forlorn. I often wonder what became of them.  Whenever a story pops up in the news about an ax murderer, I wonder if it’s one of them.

I felt such pity for those kids because they weren’t nearly as fortunate as I was. When you’re a criplet, nobody makes you take accordion lessons. And that wasn’t the only time I felt like counting my blessings. For the most part, being a criplet got me out of going to church, too. So I didn’t have to live if fear that someone might make me try out to be an altar boy. Have you ever seen an altar boy in a wheelchair? Or a blind altar boy being led around by a guide dog?

And later, in high school and college, I felt the full glory of my cripple privilege. All the uncrippled mopes jumped through hoops and twisted into contortions to avoid being drafted into the military. But because I was crippled I didn’t have to run off to Canada or pretend I was gay. I had an automatic exemption. All I had to do was stay crippled. I was the only guy I knew who wished real hard he would receive a draft notice. I wanted to report to the draft office with my notice and my crippled ass, just for a laugh.

Yep, and being crippled also saved me from the becoming a jock. That’s the kind of crowd I would’ve hung out with. And I would’ve been the kind of jock that looks down hardest on cripples. Actually, I would’ve been worse than a jock. I would’ve been a failed jock, reliving my high school glory days as a second string kick holder and waiting for my big break. I’d be living in a shabby attic, getting stoned, watching tons of daytime television and wondering what God has planned for me. And someday I would come to the realization that living in a shabby attic, getting stoned and watching tons of daytime television IS what God has planned for me.

I try to remember all this when some uncrippled people act like they do sometimes around cripples. When they act all superior or patronizing or freaked out or put upon or jittery or whatever, I try to give them a break. I remind myself that the uncrippled are under a lot of pressure in this world and sometimes my presence makes it worse.  They see how easy I’ve had it and they feel jealous.

I understand. So I pat them on the head and move on.


  1. I understand the draft avoidance. My son is crippled (CP) and when he was young I remember relieved and still am that there was no draft and if ever came back he was safe, being wheelchair bound no military service for him. Now mind you I served in the military back in the 80's and I'm glad I did. But I refuse to lose my son in a useless war for no reason.

    Kathy Grisham

  2. My brother got off the plane, pushing his wheelchair, which held his backpack. He was really cramped, having folded his six-foot self into that tiny airplane seat for several hours. So he preferred to walk-limp-shuffle through the airport to baggage claim. Not wanting to let a free ride go to waste, I said, shoot, then I'll sit and you can push me. We got to baggage claim and he parked my un-crippled self off to the side, while he dove in to the crowd waiting around the luggage carousel. I'm used to smiling at people, to getting friendly smiles back. But in the wheelchair...holy shit. People accidentally made eye contact, then realized I was in a wheelchair and quickly looked away. So if I were crippled, I'd be grateful for one thing you didn't mention: that I don't have to get whiplash from trying not to see me.

  3. Everything has a plus side. Now...if only I weren't a woman...

  4. I earned a "God bless you" the other day for waiting for the bus on the side of the highway (in my wheelchair). Before I explained that it was a bus stop, the lady thought I was sitting there waiting for someone to offer help.