Tag Archives: Disability

Courage at Twilight: Mobility Strategy

I sat down with Mom and Dad recently, and asked Dad if we could discuss a plan to preserve his mobility for as long as possible. Far from defensive, he seemed grateful for the discussion: he and Mom know that him losing his mobility will dramatically affect quality of life for them both.  After our discussion, I typed and printed our Mobility Strategy, in big blaring pitch, and stuck it to the refrigerator with a magnet.  A day in the hospital, the Christmas and New Year holidays, and family celebrations interrupted some elements of the new routine, like going to the gym.  Other elements we started immediately.  I do not badger Dad about drinking water, for example, but every time I pass his chair, I hand him a bottle of cold water.  My message is clear.  And, to be fair, I hold my own water bottle even as I hand him his.  (Water intake can reduce edema.)  Here is our Mobility Strategy.  I will let you know how it goes.

  1. Stationary Bike. Ride the bike 6 days a week, for 30 minutes each ride.
  2. Gym. Go to the gym 2 days a week, weather permitting.
  3. Leg Compressors. Use the pumping leg compressors when reading at night.
  4. Walker. Use the blue walker between family room, kitchen, and dining room, as needed.
  5. Cane. Keep the “walking stick” handy for short treks in the house or to the car.
  6. Compression Socks. Order.  Wear.
  7. Elevate. When sitting, keep legs elevated.
  8. WATER. Keep several water bottles cold in the fridge.  Sip all day.

(Image by Willfried Wende from Pixabay)

Courage at Twilight: Weddings and Wheelchairs

Some days are unabashedly victorious and joyful. They need make no excuse for their happiness, and deserve their delight.  One recent glorious day was my son Caleb’s wedding day.  He and his wife Edie found each other after years of mutual adventures shared by family and friends: rock climbing, kayaking, canyoneering, hiking, mountain biking, and missionary service.  My heart believes in them individually and as a couple, that they can be happy together for the long haul through life.  Caleb’s mother and I joined peaceably in the celebration of our son’s hope and happiness.  Not long ago he was a chubby grinning toddler—now he is a giant with as big a heart.  Mom and Dad, 86 and 82, were able to attend the wedding ceremony, pushed in wheelchairs by my sister Sarah and her husband Tracy.  The marriage was solemnized in the Jordan River Temple, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and we took hurried pictures in a sunny 25-degrees.  The wheelchairs were wonderful tools for access and ability, and at the same time ominous portents of things to come.  My thoughts about marriage are tender and wounded and fearful and hopeful.  I want so badly for the marriages of my children, especially, and my friends and neighbors—everyone—to succeed, to be joyful even, knowing the disruption and agony of that particular failure.  What matters today is that Caleb and Edie are happy together, and they are determined to work with each other and for each other to keep it that way.  I feel so very happy for them.  And how content I am that Caleb’s still-living grandfathers and grandmother could join in the celebration, from the wheelchairs that made that joining possible and even comfortable.  Here’s to good days.

Courage at Twilight: Handicapped Parking

What a blessing is the handicapped placard hanging from the rearview mirror of the faithful Suburban.  I tend to quick judgment when I see someone my age and looking just as healthy occupying a handicapped parking stall.  But I try to turn that emotion into gratitude that I can park close to the store for Mom and Dad.  With me driving, they scan the parking lot for the nearest best blue-signed pole.  On our first grocery store outing, I pulled neatly into the stall, the passenger tires perfectly parallel and close to the cart-return curb.  But the car was so close to the curb that Dad couldn’t get out and nearly fell.  So now I look for the van accessible stall and turn wide into it, the driver tires in the hatched lines, with plenty of room for Dad and his shopping cart to maneuver.  The three of us form a slow-moving line crossing the drive lane into the store, me in the front waving thanks to the patient cars, and Mom and Dad following—a kind of gaggle in reverse, with the gosling in the lead.

 

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

Courage at Twilight: My Friend Primus

I met Primus Butler in 2007 as he walked 20 miles with a cane across the Tooele Valley, and we became friends. Primus was born with a form of muscular dystrophy.  As he explained to me, the left side of his brain is highly developed, while the right side has the faculty of an eight-year-old.  Thus disabled, he reads voraciously, completing his five thousandth book this year.  And I’m not talking Hardy Boys, but long and complex works of non-fiction, like Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton.  He rates and lists every book—a select few he finds “indispensable.”  He can discourse for hours about history, politics, biography, religion, and world civilizations.  He earned a degree in Bible and Christian Education from Central Bible College in Springfield Missouri.  And he is a writer.  His first published book is entitled, Heroes of Hope, a collection of 52 biographical sketches of men and women whom Primus considers to have “changed the world by daring to hope.”  (See the Xulon Press bookstore.)  Mom and I each bought a first edition.  Once every month or two I take pizza or fried chicken and Coke to Primus’ house to catch up and talk about whatever interesting subjects cross our minds.  Primus does most of the talking because, well, he knows most of the information.  I called him to tell him I had moved from the valley and would not be able to see him as often, but that I would stop by from time to time.  He did not betray any sadness.  But we have become friends, and I will keep in touch.  Primus is preparing his second book for publication: 52 sketches of his Heroes of Love.

Assault with a Deadly Weapon

Assault with a Deadly Weapon

Well, children, that was my very first trial.  Assault with a deadly weapon.  What a disaster!

*  *  *  *  *

“Here are your cases for the week,” the secretary sighed, bored.  “You have a trial today.  Have fun.”  The other prosecutors cheered when I was hired because hundreds of their cases shifted from their desks to mine.  I was so new I had to ask directions to the courthouse.  I drove my grandma’s 1970 v8 Chevy Nova—it purred in idle and roared on demand.

I first saw that first case on the day of trial. Continue reading

Half the Student Body

Half the Student Body

“If we had known the severity of your handicap, you would not have been admitted.”  That is what the law school averred, in 1960, when he was wheeled into class – speaking intentionally in the passive, because he could not wheel himself, nor could he write or type, turn the pages of his textbooks, raise his hand in class, feed himself, or use the restroom.  “We don’t have the facilities for you.”

Our anger was a fury sparked by profound injustices.
And with that rage we ripped a hole in the status quo.

But having arrived somehow at the school, he kept rolling on.

I call for a revolution that will empower every single human being
to govern his or her life.

Roommates hoisted him to the floor and turned on the shower so he could roll around to bathe.  Women gathered at his door each morning to greet him and push him to campus.  Law students took long notes longhand, holding them up for him to memorize one page at a time.

Disability is an art.  It’s an ingenious way to live.

At the phrase “I need to” Nelson took him to the restroom, lifted him from his chair, lowered his trousers, clasped him from behind to hold him up at the urinal, or set him on the commode, then tidied and dressed him and took him back to class.

I am different, not less.

Sitting at a study table, when he sneezed from a cold, his head flopped over and hit the table with a bang.  He lifted his head just in time for another sneeze and thump.  A clang every time.  One could not very well hold his head all afternoon in anticipation of a sneeze.  The sneeze simply erupted when it wished, with a heavy clonk on hardwood.

I’m already healed.  Just because I can’t walk doesn’t mean I’m not whole.

He graduated from college.  He slogged through law school.  He was their friend, and they were his friends.  They helped him: half the student body.  He ennobled them by inviting them to join him on his journey.

When everyone else says you can’t, determination says, YES YOU CAN.

A student in a wheelchair, whose name I never knew.  He graduated from that law school where they tried to tell him No.  He became an attorney in the U.S. Patent Office in Washington, D.C.  And he married a lovely girl.  And he fathered dear children.  And he lived a life full and long.

Alone we can do so little.  Together we can do so much.

Quotations from these Powerful Able-Disabled:
-Judy Heumann
-Justin Dart
-Neil Marcus
-Temple Grandin
-Ed Roberts
-Robert Hensel
-Helen Keller

(Image of Stephen Hawking by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay)

Roger is a municipal attorney, homebody poet and essayist, and amateur naturalist.  Roger is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road and A Time and A Season.  Rabbit Lane tells the true life story of an obscure farm road and its power to transform the human spirit.  A Time and A Season gathers Roger’s poems from 2015-2020, together with the stories of their births.  The books are available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.  See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.

Just Like That

Just Like That

Not one prosthetic leg, but two—two metal legs where shins bones had been, fibula-flanked tibia, and metal feet filling running shoes laced tight and carrying bone and muscle and steel around the gym.  I did not pity him, but I did pity him—I couldn’t help feeling sorry that something violent had taken his legs, his shins, his ankles, his feet.  It could have been an improvised explosive device disguised as a cardboard box along the side of an Iraqi highway.  It could have been a land mine in Afghanistan.  It could have been a pickup truck rolling and rolling cab-crushing rolling down an embankment into cattails and reeds.  My curiosity couldn’t help but wonder.  He moved down the line of upper-body machines, hip flexors lifting metal in a slightly mechanical gait.  Men—guys—simply do not speak to other men at the gym, except for the group that ripple and strut and those that come as friends and spotters, for fear perhaps of misunderstanding or offense, or to project a cool stoic toughness, or to avoid the embarrassment of slack-muscled bald-headed types like me intruding on their pounding blue-tooth buds.  I did finally figure out a way to be friendly without being weird, playing to vanity by asking for tips for this muscle or that, and usually they were friendly, except for one hulk who sneered It’s all in the genes… which I guess meant I owned unfortunate DNA.  But asking the man with carbon-metal legs for tips would be an obvious ruse for selfishly satisfying a shallow curiosity.

Grandpa Charles had worked in the vast shunting yards of the old Rio Grande, getting cars where they needed to be, cleaning, inspecting, greasing, working levers and switches and leaping over couplings and tight-rope-walking tracks and a general hopping about, with frequent reminders that steel is unforgiving, until that day an inattentive engineer lurched a car and crush-killed Grandpa Charles.  Jesse lived alone for long decades after.  And the grandkids never knew Grandpa.

I walked up to him anyway, taboo and all, because I refused to be afraid of being friendly, and I said Hi and told him I think it’s awesome you are here living your life and that I was not asking him what happened, but I’m sure you suffered terribly and I’m sure it took courage to walk again and live again and choose to be strong and fit and social and I admire and respect your strength in adversity and he was nice and I felt happy and relieved and he told me he had been working in the railyard at an industrial depot that used to be an Army depot when he met a spiteful unforgiving train that lurched at him and his legs were gone just like that but he didn’t die and he decided to live again and I told him I would try to do the same when life got hard for me, and he said Nice to meet you, too.

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(Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay )

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Roger is a municipal attorney, homebody poet and essayist, and amateur naturalist.  Roger is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road and A Time and A Season.  Rabbit Lane tells the true life story of an obscure farm road and its power to transform the human spirit.  A Time and A Season gathers Roger’s poems from 2015-2020, together with the stories of their births.  The books are available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.  See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.

Teasing Daddy’s Ear

Teasing Daddy’s Ear

I have been watching a man at church, sitting in his cushioned pew.  His child sits belted in a wheelchair because she cannot use her legs at all and would flop to the floor if unrestrained.  She is motion, her arms and hands fluttering around and her head wagging and her tight long ponytail swishing violently as if warding off some invisible and pestering thing. Continue reading

Vales and Shadows

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I listened, straining to understand, as the young man struggled through a severe speech impediment to deliver his brief address from the pulpit.  Sitting in my regular church pew, I admired his courage.  Would I have the courage, I wondered, to face a congregation and speak, knowing that I could not speak clearly?  The strength of his conviction carried through even if the words of his message were garbled.  Later, staring at the night ceiling, I imagined him reciting Psalm 23, feeling his vale of sorrow, and taking comfort in his strength, his comforter, his shepherd.  And I imagined the response of the rapt congregation.  Then I wrote Psalm 23 as he may have recited it, not in derision, but out of utmost respect for the strength of his courage and conviction.

VALES AND SHADOWS

Tha Laws ma shepr;
Ishl nawan.
He make me to ladan
in grin pasht:
He led besa sti was.
He sto mso:
He lead me in pa righchne
foris nem sek.
Yeah, though wa valla
shada de
I feena evil:
for Thar wivme;
Tha ra an tha staff
they comfme.
Tha prepa taba fome
in prence ma enmy;
Tha noin ma hea voil;
ma cup runova.
Shu good mercy
fo me all day mlife;
and I dwell nouseof Law
fever.

(loud clappings . . . happy smile . . . weepings)