Thursday, December 6

the way we are

Keeper and I went out to the local coffee spot on an unusually warm November morning. I am teaching her to wait for me outside various establishments around town. Sadistically, I may be doing this just to see her excitement when I magically reappear. Everyone needs to be missed.

I was preparing to read the latest selection from my Temple Grandin library, the chapter on horses specifically, when Abel wheeled up to the table in his electric chair. I did not know his name was Abel at that time. Keeper was very interested in his chair, which moves very slowly across the irregular metropolitan sidewalk terrain.

He stopped when Keeper came close for a sniff. She has that effect on people. Then she bites at them, which usually elicits the opposite effect, coupled with some cursing.

I soon learned that Abel was the middle, and only boy, in a family of five kids. He was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was six months old. But more currently, he was disgruntled because just after he'd gotten dressed in his uniform, his work called to say they didn't need him that day.

I tried to imagine how hard it would be to put on a uniform in a chair with limited use of your hands and almost no use of your lower body. I presumed his work didn't consider that. Thankfully he wasn't already on the city bus that he takes to get to his job.

He asked what I did for work. I said I was working on my therapeutic riding instructor certification (which is true, albeit casually).

"I bet you're a great instructor," he said, "I'd come and ride if you were the instructor."

"Thank you," I said, flattered, and unsure if that was a pickup line.

He asked me how I got into therapeutic riding. And because there is really not a simple answer to that [or perhaps it only seems complicated to me], I launched into my pilgrimage with disability. Don't worry, I kept it under five minutes.

After that, he said, "Can I ask, what is your disability?"

"Oh," I said. "I have this tiny little arm."

Then we discussed how we'd each been blessed with very loving and accepting families. He asked if my parents were shocked by my disability when I was born, and if I had children, would they also have a tiny arm? In case you're wondering, you'd have to ask them and there is no indication that Finneas is genetic.

"I'm glad I am the way I am," Abel said. This from a man who needs help to go to the bathroom.

"That's awesome," I said. "Me, too."