I remember Liz Shelton would take notes for me, helped me study for tests, and would physically help me around. She was a redheaded woman in her mid-thirties who actually lived down the street from me with her husband and kids. She was one of the people in my life who would treat me like I was a “normal” person without wheels. I remember this having its advantages and disadvantages. I liked that she didn’t talk to me like I was a baby, but at the same time she wouldn’t take any guff from me. At the time, I was wearing leg braces. Technological advances between 1990 and now have introduced a lot of advances in equipment for people with special needs. People without the leg strength to keep their knees from bending and falling out from under them used a standing box. I had metal leg braces that went all the way up to my hips on both sides with locks on both knees and knee pads. They were made of some sort of cheap plastic material, and would cause your skin to sweat incessantly. It was less than pleasant. In school, I wore these braces and I stood in the standing box, which modern technology has developed into the “standing frame”, which is much fancier and looks far more comfortable. The standing box was less efficient than the equipment available today. The box was literally just a wooden box that was just big enough for my body to fit into it with a door on one side so that I could get in. Liz would help me in and out of this box which was clearly made by someone especially for me to avoid the costs of purchasing a fancy one. During my years in school, I was the only person who needed a standing box.
Just like other people from my generation, there are certain “inside jokes” that followed us. There was a commercial for an elderly care product where the female actress feigns a fall and then says “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up”. Liz once gave me a shirt that said “I’m talking and I can’t shut up”. I can write, but it’s not very legible, so even when I was doing homework I was speaking and dictating so that Liz could write out my answers. Basically, I was talking all the time. This may be one reason why I became such an avid speaker on the radio, but it also meant that I became “less good” at keeping my mouth shut. So, the shirt was appropriate, I suppose. It was an interesting gift that I won’t ever forget.
I Did laps around the gym through grade school in my manual chair for PE.
The janitor of both the junior high and highschool is still a friend of mine. Curtis…decided he would offer me a job. For the PE period every day, he would tie a shop broom to the back of my chair and it would pick up papers and small pieces of trash in the hallways as I rolled along. The broom dragged behind me, and when I saw something that needed to be swept up, I rolled over it so that the broom dragging behind my chair would catch it. That became my PE time. Instead of going around in circles in the gym, I rolled around the school and collected trash with my broom. After PE class, I would get $1. A dollar might not sound like much, but I could get a soda at lunchtime and a snack. A dollar is a lot for a kid in the 90’s.
There was a day that I made Liz mad. I don’t remember what I did to make her mad, but I got a detention slip from Liz…a little purple piece of paper that I had to witness her filling out. The whole time she was filling out the slip, I was laughing. The more I laughed, the angrier she became. Finally, PE period rolled around and I told Curtis about Liz filling out the detention slip for me. Curtis put mop oil on my handles. I finished my job and wheeled myself back to the nurse’s office where Liz was waiting. Somehow, I managed to keep a straight face until Liz grabbed hold of the handles. Immediately, she went to the sink and used a ridiculous amount of paper towels trying to wash the oil off of her hands. The entire Junior High was meeting in the auditorium for an assembly. She wheeled me to the principal and told me to confess of my tricky sin to him. I told him. He laughed, patted me on the shoulder, and walked away.