Monday, March 9, 2015

Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month: Day 9: Steps

I was leaving my parents' house yesterday (with the help of my youngest brother) because the garage steps are tricky and the front steps even more so.  He held my arm for a split second, more moral support than physical.  It takes some intense motor planning to organize my feet and crutches on the right steps in order to get down them without falling.

Once I cleared them, and walked past the front steps, I was struck by a particularly visceral memory.  I was nine years old, and eager to go outside and play with my sister and younger brothers.  I remembered consciously choosing to go out the front door and walk around the house, instead of navigating the nearly impossible deck stairs.

I was in such a hurry that I did what I was used to doing indoors at the top of any staircase: I dropped one of my crutches down the two steep concrete steps.  On the indoor stairs, there's a railing and having the other crutch is enough to help me down, but this time, I had inadvertently stranded myself.  My feet were on the top of the steps.  My single remaining crutch was a step down and the other was out of reach.

My siblings were already out back and my mom was inside, but the windows were open.  I stood there for a while, panicked.  I could feel the muscles in my legs stiffening with fear and exertion.  Finally, I started yelling for help.

Only it didn't come.  My mom (probably figuring us kids were playing a game) called for us to be quiet.  I was freaking out, imagining the fall forward, flat on my face, or the fall backward, cracking my head open.  By some miracle, I fell on my knees on that very top level of the steps and was uninjured.

The moment left me so shaken that I detailed it in a handwriting assignment for fourth grade the following week.  As I was (apparently) the first disabled student my classroom teacher had ever seen, she made it her duty to fawn over me and give me undue attention for simple things.  Everyone in the class had written about their best day ever, and then, about their worst.

The best-written papers were read by the teacher out loud to the class.  I figured mine was about the middle of the pack.  I knew there were kids who were worse writers than I was, but I also knew there were better writers.  I didn't expect to have mine picked, and listening to the teacher read about how my worst day ever was being stranded on the front steps of my own house, in her stilted, formal voice, I felt like I was being mocked.  I also knew, immediately, that none of the other kids' worst days were like mine.  They probably thought my worst day was silly.  I felt like my teacher probably felt the same, and was just humoring me, in an "Oh, the poor thing.  Isn't that cute?" manner.

I almost shared the story with my little brother, who wasn't even born yet at the time, but the moment passed.  So, I thought I'd share it here instead.

Anybody else have scary moments related to their disability that they feel misunderstood about?  Or just have something you want to add?  Feel free to sound off in the comments.

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