My daughter, Parker, just turned 12 a few days ago. In my mind, she’s just a four-year-old little girl without a care in the world and not the soon-to-be teenager who will be too busy to spend any time with her old dad.
When she’s around me, she leans on my chair. I guess it is just too exhausting to have to stand up when you’re 12 years old. I have to admit I love every minute of it. Just recently after a marathon walk through the mall she looked at me and said, “Daddy, I wish I could still ride on your lap.” I told her, “Sweetie, I wish you could too.”
That small exchange made me remember a few years ago when my now 15-year-old son, Gage, was about Parker’s age. We had gone to the Renaissance Festival and spent the day doing everything the kids wanted to do. It was time to leave, and we were making the long walk back to the car. He too was leaning on my chair as if the weight of the world was holding him down. He looked at me without any hint of sarcasm or malice and said, “You are so lucky you don’t have to walk.” He meant it. He meant every word of it. Not in a mean or sarcastic way. Not in a snotty teenager way. But he truly meant at that time I was lucky I didn’t have to walk back to the car.
My children have only known me as someone who can’t move. Their perspective is completely different from the rest of the world. They don’t cut me a break because I’m a disabled guy that might need something. I’m their dad. I’m supposed to take care of them regardless of the disparity in who has more physical ability. In fact, to this day my children still expect me to change the channel when a commercial comes on. They look at me and say, “Dad! Commercial!” If I tell them I’m busy or they should do it themselves, they actually look at me like I’ve lost my mind. That’s my job. It’s been my job their entire lives.
Their perspective is different, and I love it. They expect me to go to work and make a good living to take care of them. They expect me to answer the phone when they call and if I don’t they keep calling back until I do. The fact that I have a disability is completely lost on them. It doesn’t factor in. That is not who or what I am. I am just dad and I have certain duties. In their minds, it’s to do everything I can to make their lives easier.
We all come to life or situations with different perspectives. Some of us suffer spinal cord injuries and have an easier time than others. Some of us have the perspective that we need to do the next thing that we can and worry about the rest later. Some aren’t so lucky. Some have difficulty finding the perspective that life will go on. Some have to find out the hard way that regardless of our perspective it will go on and we can either get dragged along or ride alongside with it.
Where we take our perspective is not unique to spinal cord injuries or brain injuries or amputees. Some people have difficulty when they get cut off in traffic, when the Texans lose, or when something doesn’t go their way at work or home. Overcoming a perspective that holds us back is one of the hardest things we deal with.
I don’t advocate for one minute that because one of us has gone through a tragic or catastrophic situation that our perspective is any better or that any others are lessened. It’s unfair to say, “Why are you complaining about work when I have a spinal cord injury, and I will never walk again?” It’s also unfair to that person to say they can’t complain about work or traffic or a bad hair day because someone else has gone through a worse situation.
We bring our perspective with us. Good, bad or indifferent. We hope to find that spot where we minimize the negative, find gratitude, and realize everyone is just doing the best they can.
I love my kids’ perspective that my wheelchair has no bearing on what my responsibilities are. I was put here to make their lives easier, and I don’t see their perspective ever-changing.
I wouldn’t ever want it to.