Table of Contents
We are all the same,
even when we are different!
Let’s start at the beginning. I was 7 weeks early when I was born. When expecting a baby, the most important task at hand for the family is preparation. Mothers typically go through stages along their pregnancy ranging from “everyday cleaning” to “disinfect everything as if we may perform a C-section right here at home”.
Not to mention the oodles and oodles of baby stuff that every expectant mom wants to have on hand before the tiny bundle arrives. In my mind, I started listing things that most new moms have before the birth of their baby, but the list got wildly out of hand quite fast, so I will digress back to my early arrival as an infant. I arrived 7 weeks early, and while my family did have some time to prepare, it was not quite enough time I’m sure. There were no warning signs that I was going to come early. My parents didn’t expect it. The doctors didn’t expect it. It was like a dinner guest who arrives 3 hours early. Dinner hasn’t been cooked, recently washed undergarments that would have been hidden are still strewn about the living room in the process of being sorted and folded, and the hostess hasn’t showered yet.
My early arrival time also put a damper on my ambitious plans for world domination. I expected to have 7 more weeks to plan. So, this was the start to my life on this planet, as it is told to me by my lovely mother, who received one of the best little Christmas gifts ever when I got to go home on Christmas Day of 1979.
A couple of years into my life, my parents and the doctors noticed that something about me wasn’t quite right, and no it wasn’t just my smashing good looks. After a little research, we figured out that I had cerebral palsy. Well, WE didn’t figure it out, because at that point in time I was about 2 years old and all I was concerned with was which toy I was going to chew on next. When they arrived upon this diagnosis, my parents’ lives became infinitely more complicated. Over the next few years, there were five surgeries and discussions of whether I would ever be able to walk.
I spent a significant amount of time in the Shriner’s Hospital. I have some strange memories from that place. You know how as adults we have childhood memories that are in bits and pieces, and I’m not even sure how all the pieces fit together, but I have those kinds of memories from my childhood, like many people do. I remember I had my eyes operated on and I had casts up both legs to my hips. All of this by the time I was five. Oh, and did I mention that one of my roommates across the hall was an amputee with a hook?
Things were different in the 1970’s. At that point in time, parents couldn’t stay in hospitals with their kids after visiting hours, so I remember I would watch TV shows with my parents at the end of visiting hours. We would watch The Dukes of Hazard and Knight Rider together. Those were great shows, by the way. But I knew that once the shows were over, it would be time for my parents to leave. When the nurses told my parents they had to leave each night, I would have screaming fits. I remember my sister gave me her glow worm during one of the fits. I still have the glow worm to this day. No, I don’t sleep with it every night. That would be weird. Not so weird as a 5 year old, but weird for a grown man.
Anyway, one of the more interesting memories I have of the Shriner’s Hospital is of the man in the room next to me coming to get me in the morning. He carried me to his room. I would sit in his room while he ate his breakfast of cereal. We had those little tiny boxes of cereal. Mine were Fruit Loops. And he just happened to be an amputee with a hook on one hand. I was practically Peter Pan. And the man with the hook was Captain Hook.
From that point on, memories become even more separated and in pieces. I remember having to wear an eye patch after one of the surgeries I had. I hated that eye patch, but it was meant to prevent me from having a lazy eye. I would be riding in my Radio Flyer red wagon, in my eye patch, the perfect makings of a pirate. But this was before Jack Sparrow was wildly popular. And I hated my eye patch. I would take it off. Mom would put it back on me, in her sweet motherly way. Little did I know that as an adult I would kill for the free pass to wear this kind of costuming with any legitimacy. But at that time, I had no desire to wear that eye patch.
I mentioned that I had casts up to my hips. They were full leg casts and they itched really really badly. The worst thing is that you can’t get down in there to scratch it. As a kid it drove me insane because I couldn’t move my legs and they were horrifically itchy. I don’t even remember if I had a wheelchair at that time or if I was stuck in bed. I just remember quite vividly the horrible feeling of needing to itch my legs. Maybe the villain from that Saw movie can create an 8th or 9th sequel (I’m not sure what number they are up to) that uses this as a form of torture for the kidnapped victims. They could have really itchy full-length casts, and be left in a room with a rusty saw. It would be a tough choice. Tolerate the itch? Saw off a leg? Choices,choices.
My whole life I grew up around music. In the 1980’s there was no satellite radio, no CDs. What we had were cassette tapes. Even at that age, I realized that music was going to be very important to me. There was just something about music that spoke to me. Even today, music is very much a mood elevator for me and takes me from being in a rotten mood to a not-so-rotten mood. My parents owned records like Dan Seals, George Straight, and other country records. One of the cassette tapes I had was Huey Lewis and the News. I remember listening to that cassette over and over and over again. I was about 6 years old. My Mom would put that cassette in the player and I would roll all over the floor. I couldn’t dance. Remember, the whole legs thing? I looked like I was trying to learn how to do a break-dance head spin and was really sucking at it. Those are some of my fondest childhood memories. See, not all of my memories are bad!
Back then there wasn’t much money. We didn’t have cable. There were no DVDs. There were cartoons at around 3pm after kids got home from school. I saw Scooby Doo, Transformers and other original cartoons that still live on today in their post-modern adaptations. Some of my superhero shows like He-man and his female counterpart She-ra didn’t survive the times, unfortunately. Like any other kids, I looked forward to these cartoons as the highlight of my day. The point of all this is that you may look at me in my wheelchair and see me as someone who is vastly different from yourself, but I’m really not. You probably enjoyed some of the same cartoons I did, and looked forward to that 3pm high just as much as a kid in a wheelchair might.
THERE IS A SUPER HERO IN ALL OF US!
And so, like most boys, I became obsessed with superheroes. I watched superhero cartoons, and begged my mother to dress me up as Spiderman for Halloween. Like most mothers, she entertained my childhood desires to be Spiderman. She also let me be a ninja one Halloween, despite my being a kid in a wheelchair with obviously no experience in ninja fighting. But, most kids don’t fight like ninjas even without wheelchairs. So, I was a ninja.
When I was a bit older (9 or 10 years old) I began to idolize Michael Jordan. I still think he is the greatest player who ever played. And he was the closest thing to a superhero that I had found. At that time, I was always sporting a Chicago Bulls shirt and I watched as many of his games on TV as possible. Some wild obsessions never die. I still watch basketball, and I still think Michael Jordan is awesome. I guess that makes me a fan.
If you were a superhero which one would you be?
All superheroes have weaknesses, just like we do. But they concentrate on their strengths. What are the strengths you possess that you could enhance, instead of beating yourself up over things that challenge you?