Happy 40th Anniversary - You Fucking Handicapped!

In 6 days, 15 hours, and 45 minutes I will have been a quadriplegic for 40 years.


Not that I am usually so meticulous. 

It's just that, 21 days ago, I celebrated exactly 30 years of marriage to my best friend. The "performance anxiety" leading up to getting that date right motivated me to do a quick calender check. I wanted to be sure I wasn't missing any other important dates this Fall.

I discovered something in my research. I am now 11 years past a particularly important " reverse warranty" given on certain body parts given to me by my radiologist when I was 16.

"In 30 years this radiation treatment we are using on your spinal cancer will give you secondary cancers," he told me.

That was 41 years ago.
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So it just seemed like the right thing to do to stop at our favorite park this afternoon.

I had been to see my doctor. He hadn't been able to give a conclusive answer about the blotch on the irradiated area. 

So, I wasn't in a hurry to head back to the work I had left unfinished this morning. I thought I'd sit and ponder in our favorite park. I figured I would see which of the geese had decided to continue further south -- and how many were going to tough it out in our neighborhood all winter. 

If I had known just how tough our neighborhood was about to get I would have counseled them to get their visas in order and wing southward pronto.

As a college undergraduate I co-founded the first Disabled Students Commission at the University of Washington with another quadriplegic. He was a law student always jetting off to meet with Ron Mace, or Judy Heumann, or somebody or another in Washington, DC. 

I recall once when he, Jack Martin was his name, explained to me why he lost his seemingly imperturbable cool when people would park illegally in spaces reserved for people with disabilities. "We are about 13 percent of the population in this country but, at best, we get 2% of the spaces and not many of them are van accessible." I nodded in agreement. "But we fought for this and several of us died early from the grueling travel, long hours in committees, hearings, and testimony to get this protected for future generations." 

Then he attached names, that I have long since forgotten, to the activists he had visited in hospitals with UTI's decubiti, restorative surgeries, and other complications from their relentless self-donation as political activists. Activists he had visited who had not survived their stays. Activists who would set the examples of service beyond their human strength followed by the Thai fighter Topong Kulkanchit of DPI and Alaska's disabled volunteer firefighter Jerry Keinaleinen.

So i think of Jack's stories, and our legacy as a community that has had to fight for every centimeter of social inclusion it currently enjoys, when I try to pull into a disabled parking space and find someone there performing unnatural acts - like talking on their cell phone without owning a disabled parking permit.

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It may be that Halloween is coming and I am getting spooked. 

Or it may be that there really are angry ghosts hovering about murmuring of desecration.

Whispering of those treading mindlessly on the memories of those who rest under the pavement that brave, selfless women and men gave their lives to see painted in these colors of liberation for generations to come.

Whatever "foul vapours" were in the air as I pulled in to park here something animated the cell-phoning master-of-all-four-letter-words-rhyming-with-truck to gun his van, lurch toward me, roll down his window, and scream ghoulish threats that the "F***ing handicapped" who would dare take pictures of him. 

After all, he reasoned, "You're just a F****ing handicapped!" - and punctuated his argument with vigorous thrusts of a centrally located finger. Not a medical diagnosis I was previously familiar with but I could understand how he might have mistaken me for someone else in a wheelchair he had previously treated.

Yes, In just about 6 days, 15 hours, and 45 minutes I will have been a quadriplegic for 40 years.

I wouldn't trade it for 40 seconds of his.

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