Sometimes I wonder what terrible tragedies might have befallen me if, by some cruel twist of fate, I wasn’t born crippled.
It gives me a cold chill to think about it. What if I was just another standard white kid in the neighborhood? Somebody might have made me take accordion lessons. The first time it really hit me how lucky I was to be crippled was when I fully comprehended what it means to have to take accordion lessons. Those poor kids always looked so bitter and forlorn. I often wonder what became of them. Whenever a story pops up in the news about an ax murderer, I wonder if it’s one of them.
I felt such pity for those kids because they weren’t nearly as fortunate as I was. When you’re a criplet, nobody makes you take accordion lessons. And that wasn’t the only time I felt like counting my blessings. For the most part, being a criplet got me out of going to church, too. So I didn’t have to live if fear that someone might make me try out to be an altar boy. Have you ever seen an altar boy in a wheelchair? Or a blind altar boy being led around by a guide dog?
And later, in high school and college, I felt the full glory of my cripple privilege. All the uncrippled mopes jumped through hoops and twisted into contortions to avoid being drafted into the military. But because I was crippled I didn’t have to run off to Canada or pretend I was gay. I had an automatic exemption. All I had to do was stay crippled. I was the only guy I knew who wished real hard he would receive a draft notice. I wanted to report to the draft office with my notice and my crippled ass, just for a laugh.
Yep, and being crippled also saved me from the becoming a jock. That’s the kind of crowd I would’ve hung out with. And I would’ve been the kind of jock that looks down hardest on cripples. Actually, I would’ve been worse than a jock. I would’ve been a failed jock, reliving my high school glory days as a second string kick holder and waiting for my big break. I’d be living in a shabby attic, getting stoned, watching tons of daytime television and wondering what God has planned for me. And someday I would come to the realization that living in a shabby attic, getting stoned and watching tons of daytime television IS what God has planned for me.
I try to remember all this when some uncrippled people act like they do sometimes around cripples. When they act all superior or patronizing or freaked out or put upon or jittery or whatever, I try to give them a break. I remind myself that the uncrippled are under a lot of pressure in this world and sometimes my presence makes it worse. They see how easy I’ve had it and they feel jealous.
I understand. So I pat them on the head and move on.