January 5, 2020
We have now passed into a new year and a new decade. I am also moving into 17 months as a disabled individual.
The day after Christmas has been important in our extended family for many years now. The tradition is to walk on the beach together after a nice brunch in Pacific Beach. Last year, I stayed on the sidewalk while everyone else enjoyed our December 26 ritual. I remember thinking to myself, “next year, I will be able to walk on the beach with everybody,” that did not hold true.
As we finished eating, I suggested that I would wait in the restaurant until they were through with the walk. I wasn’t happy about it, but I did not want to spoil our 32+ years of history. My brother-in-law brought their dog, and the lifeguard told him to stay off the beach. I figured we could commiserate with each other (not about that walk but our mutual life-altering situations). Steve was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimers last year.
As we began toward the pier, most everyone stayed with the two of us. Honestly, that meant a lot to me. That gesture helped me not feel as sorry for myself. God has been very good in the sense that my life was spared, yet I am still very frustrated at how this has all has played out.
There were victories in 2019. I retired the wheelchair in June. I went back to work full-time in August, and I put the cane away in late November. Then after two falls in December, I decided that much I was trying to do was vane. I didn’t want to be seen as a disabled person. I hated meeting new people who would only know me this way, but once again, I was worried about optics. The reality is I may never get much better. I am not giving up, but the fact is that I have plateaued.
It is very easy to get frustrated and throw myself a pity party, then God shows up and reminds me that he is good. The past week has been very refreshing. On New Year’s Eve, I had the honor of officiating a former student’s wedding in Utah. Alex is 32 years old and a lawyer in Austin, Texas. I was both his seventh grade and eighth-grade teacher. One of his groomsmen, John, was also in my class. It was a bit surreal to see these 12-year-old boys grow to be such fine men.
This afternoon I attended Church of Hope in Aliso Viejo, where another of my former students (actually from my first youth group in Irvine) is the lead pastor. He invited me so the elders of this church could lay hands on me and pray. Another surreal moment, but oh so encouraging.
It is those gentle reminders, the friends who take care of our yard work, a note here and there from a former student, or a simple text message to let me know someone is praying for my complete recovery.
Just for fun, here are some things I have learned in the last 17 months:
- Never clean up orange juice with a rag and your foot.
- Waiting 15 minutes to walk to bed after you’ve taken Ambien is not a smart thing.
- A lot of people park in handicap spaces when they’re not supposed to.
- People are more likely to call you “Sir” when you are walking with a cane.
- You can’t open everything with your teeth.
- Strangers will go out of their way to help you’re when you’re disabled.
- Never wear pants you can’t shimmy out of when they are buttoned.
- Kids see beyond your disability.
- It is more entertaining if you do a little jig before taking a fall.
- Going upstairs by yourself at church is frowned upon.
- I should heed Jordan’s and Pam’s advice not to move chairs.
- Having an accident the week you begin driving again does not inspire confidence.
- My body is impatient. There is no more “waiting to go.” I learned this the hard way.
- Rails to keep you safe get very hot if they are metal.
- I don’t need most anything right this moment. I am learning to be patient.
- Locking my keys in my house makes life problematic.
- Asking people to tie my shoes is not that difficult.
- I need a lot of quiet time to calm overstimulation.
- I have supportive friends and an amazing wife.
- God is good regardless of what I feel.