Being different has always been a calling card of mine, whether I want it to be or not. Sometimes I do, and I’m happy to take on all comers who want to know what cerebral palsy is. (There’s a difference between what it is and what it’s like for me. There are five kinds of palsy, believe it or not, but that’s getting a bit too technical.) Sometimes I don’t, and I dream of a normal life, where the only thing special about me is what I’m doing now (hopefully). In the year 1982, it was pronounced, in one wordless action, by a doctor with both too much medical experience and too many years on a planet that had outgrown him–a dangerous cocktail–that I should be “different” for a lifetime.
No one gave me a heads-up on this. I found out years later that I had fought for my life that first night.
Fought and won.
Congratulations! You’ve won the grand prize, Being Different Forever! Over-the-shoulder glances as you pass people in malls! Looks of doubt when you tell people, “I can do this job.” You will never play a sport in any meaningful, competitive way.
As we get to know each other, readers, you will find that, while the palsy has hindered me at times, I believe it has also given me a perspective from which few ever have the chance to articulate. Sure, I’m different (to some), and sure, it makes me mad at times (the handicapped guy who goes through life without complaint is a nice little myth, but it’s not true to me, and if I’m going to write my truth on this blog that means telling you it’s not true), but as mad as it makes me… it could be worse.
I could have fought and lost.
To the hospital nurses who saved my life, to the people who fought alongside me, and still do (you know who you are), to the kids at school who didn’t mind my being different, and who are still my friends to this day, to my best friend, who let me pitch and who pitched so I could hit, and told me I was good, and who read my stories and would tell me when they were bad, to the little sister who will stare a dirty look dead in the face with a look that’s even dirtier, until the offending glancer turns away, thank you all. You make being different worth all the work and the tears.