Hearing these words directed at a teenage boy in my high school, I winced.
The continual jerking of this boy’s body made high school teens extremely uncomfortable. They were eager to stay away from him, especially as he struggled to form understandable words. As a result, students shunned him.
I decided to closely listen to his speaking. Soon, I picked up his mannerisms and tone. I understood him perfectly. I discovered what a vibrant personality he had. He was a real practical joker and superb pun maker, highly intelligent and always eager to dialogue with me.
I so enjoyed his company.
There is technology today that assists those with physical limitations to interact. It would not surprise me if he were the inventor of it.
I know this for I visit a friend with Parkinson’s who endures these afflictions.
Yes, it is disconcerting for me to witness her jerking head, flaying arms, and tangling conversation.
But, my discomfort is nothing compared to hers. When people shun her due to their own ignorance and discomfort, I wince.
Every day is a struggle to be the vibrant intelligent woman that she is inside her betraying body.
Yet, her spirit of living life in crescendo shines outward and endures in our time together.
We mostly visit over lunch at her home. But one day, she preferred to walk to a local senior centre for lunch.
She insisted that she alone push her walker up the long hill.
At first, I walked slowly. As one wheel continually caught in each crack in the pavement, I also walked slightly aside from the walker.
She seemed perplexed at my slow pace, for she determinedly pushed that walker quickly up the hill. As I dodged those furiously moving wheels, it never occurred to me to suggest we slow down. Obviously, this was the brisk pace she wanted, pushing that walker as fast as it could go. In time, I was trying to keep up with her! She’d slightly speed up, so I’d speed up, whereupon she’d speed up a little more. I noticed those who passed by glanced at us with some obvious amusement.
Suddenly, she stopped, looked up at me, and said, “ Okay, that it! I’m done. I’ve enjoyed our race. But, I just can’t keep up with you! You won!”
Laughing, I explained that I was racing to keep up with her!
After flashing me an amused grin, we continued to lunch at an agreed upon slower pace.
It became our standard joke before each time we walked.
While cerebral palsy begins at birth and Parkinson’s begins later in life, one truth endures:
Inside every challenged body resides a vibrant person.
Michael J Fox on David Letterman