Coming Up: Early Leanings of a Crippled Man

The foundations were poured and my underpinnings securely in place. With passing of time, that gimpy strip of DNA began to stake its claim, and make a name for itself…..

With growth, comes progress. Such developments may come along in many ways. The mastery of a talent or skill, can be a beautiful thing. Or achievement could be marked by the identification and subsequent avoidance of things that are not going to be helpful. Few might question the wisdom of a young boy who quickly learns that it is a poor idea to shake hands with an electric fence. I had moved on from these earlier lessons.

My early school years were good ones. I was a bright kid that got along in my own way, making mainly good grades. While I did not make a mark as a great student, I would judge myself as above average. I participated, even in the extracurricular events. I felt like I belonged. Pretty normal, I expect.

As I emerged from the relatively safe cocoon offered by elementary school, more change was afoot. Some of it was pretty awful.

I came to fear middle school gym. Now, our PE teachers were fairly cruel, that I am pretty sure of, and unless you were a jock, you probably agreed. Not an ideal place for an uncoordinated non-athlete. Maybe my memory is playing a trick on me, but I can swear that they mostly tried to promote war between the classmates. Whether it was dodgeball, wrestling, football or even the basketball duels (two guys faced off, back-to-back with basketballs, took ten steps, turned and chucked the ball at each other’s heads) the theme always seemed to be the same: make the strong feel good about belittling the less able.

The bad part is, though I could have been one of those poor dudes, I never was. And I, just like everyone else in the class, cheered the spectacle. Purely our entertainment at the expense of these poor guys.

As I got along in years, I modified my existence as I had to. While my awkwardness kept me from ever excelling at anything physical, I stayed at it. I was a bad golfer, a funny looking, slow runner and mediocre at shooting baskets. I liked it best outside. Camping, fishing, canoeing, biking, urban adventuring, they all worked for me. I could get it done on my own terms, which was great.

I spent a bit of time sailing. Maybe a lot of time- all day Saturday and Sunday plus Wednesday evenings. I liked it, and the guys were great. I had carved out a niche as the guy who could run the electronics and navigate. I was pretty ok on the sails and lines. Challenge: the boat tended to pitch around quite a bit, especially when the Northeast wind picked up. This was not a problem at first: I was not prone to seasickness, mostly, and I somehow managed to not get thrown overboard. After a few years of this, though, I became somewhat unsure of myself. I remember that while I used to be able to stay upright, I now felt a bit unsteady. This really puzzled me. How could I change so abruptly? It seemed to happen pretty quickly. A few different theories were suggested: You need physical therapy. Your legs are weak. You have a problem with your ears. None seemed as outrageous as Bob Delgado, who reckoned I ought to see a neurologist. He was wrong about that one, I was sure. As best I knew, neurologists were brain surgeons. Had to be something else. If only Delgado knew….

In any case, whatever it was, I was clumsy. I could manage plenty, but just barely, sometimes. I learned that it can get strange in the initial stages of a disability (things don’t work quite right, but you wonder why? Is that just the way I am?) By appearance, I was just a clod, or maybe a drunk staggering down the street.

Published by bradleygillespie

I am just a guy with a disease called adrenomyeloneuropathy. I want other guys with the disease to see the good parts of disability. Not the gloom. Not the doom. Make sense?

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