Thursday, October 23, 2014

Breaking My Father's Heart

We’re overdue for one of those father and crippled son stories in the press. One of those stories seems to pop up every year or so. Father and crippled son embark on a journey to raise awareness and inspire people. A father runs a marathon while pushing his son in a wheelchair. A father runs across the Great Plains with his crippled son strapped across his back. In towns along the way citizens hold rallies to cheer them on.

These stories make me think of my father and the relationship we had, which was pretty much zero. My dad wasn’t around much. We knew he was still alive when his monthly check arrived. One year I decided to send him a Father’s Day card. What the hell, I thought. Why not? So I set out in search of a card to express my sentiments. And boy did that turn into a task. One card said, “Happy Father’s Day to man who is always there whenever I…” Nope, can’t buy that one. Another card said, “Happy Father’s Day to a man who is my hero and…” Nope again. Nope nope nope again and again until I finally found a card that said something like, “Happy Father’s Day to a man who is… a father.”

Having a pretty much zero relationship with your old man sucks. I don’t recommend it. Don’t try it at home. But these father and crippled son stories make me realize that it had its upside. There was no chance in hell of my father ever saying, ”Hey sport, let’s run a marathon!” I’m so grateful for that, just like I’m grateful that my father never had a family business called Ervin and Son Funeral Home that he dreamed of turning over to me someday. In either case, I would have had to break my father’s heart by telling him thanks but no thanks.

I couldn’t play that crippled son role. It reminds me too much of those situations where people heap praise and admiration on me when I haven't done anything. It creeps me out. I imagine First Ladies often feel the same way. I feel like a prop. It's like back when I was a poster kid and people gushed but all I did was be crippled.

But there is one scenario under which I would have gladly let my father tote me around in public. Suppose my father received a letter from Medicaid refusing to buy me a wheelchair for any of the million reasons Medicaid might refuse to buy a cripple a wheelchair. And suppose my father then said, “Goddammit sport, I ought to strap you across my back and run across the Great Plains to raise awareness about how Medicaid fucks cripples over! We’ll call it the Look How Medicaid Fucks Cripples Over Tour!”

All along the route I would inspire citizens to grab their pitchforks and charter a bus for the capital. I’d happily be a prop for that. That would be putting my crippledness to very good use.