The World of Other Normals

Ruby and I sat in the barbershop waiting.  I thumbed through an art magazine, hoping the free arcade game would come available, so I could squeeze in a round of Galaga.   Ruby found a Mad Magazine.  She kept interrupting me to show me the cartoons.

"I love this magazine. Do they still make it?" she asked.

"I don't know.  That's Ronald Reagan, so it's old."


"Reagan.  He was president when I was your age.  Here, let me see when this thing was printed."  I examined the cover.  "1988.  That's when I graduated from high school."

(By the way, if you are curious, Mad is still promulgating bad taste at:

"Cool," she said slowly. "That's old."

"Gee, thanks."

They called the next person for a haircut.  A woman stood.  Beside her sat a girl about Ruby's age.  I noticed for the first time that the girl's body had a awkward limpness.  She stared at the coffee table.  The woman grabbed the girl by the wrists and hoisted her up like a marionette. The child clung to her mother, unsteady, knees knocking, feet turned inward too far. I knew the signs of cerebral palsy immediately. I didn't know how much the child was challenged—it was too hard to tell. I watched as they slowly maneuvered the ascent of the barber's chair.  The child shrieked in panic as they draped her. The mother held the girl’s hand and spoke plainly to the stylist, as if this were normal, because this was normal for them.

I knew her normal.

In times like these, I have two competing impulses:

1.  I want to say to the parent, “I have one too,” or “I get it,” or “good luck and warmest regards.” I want to show this mother a picture of Savannah in my wallet, but I don’t have one there. It is so hard to get a good picture. I have a few in my phone, I could show her, but it would take too long to find them buried under a thousand snapshots of Ruby.

2.  But I never say anything because I have another impulse telling me to leave them alone. This is what I’d want… to be left alone.  Just let me get through this appointment, this inconvenience, this day.  It is like my prayer, my mantra, at times... "please, just give me the will to continue."

As I got my haircut, I thought about the story that I'm trying to tell.  I don't mean this particular story, but the capital "S" story.  The story of Savannah and the people who live in this world of other normals.  I have to tell this story, not so much for me, but for Savannah because she can't tell it herself.

Does any of that make sense?

But let me be very clear. I do not speak for the "disabilities community." I can’t pretend that I know about other people, such as the woman and the girl at the barbershop beyond the superficial, the stereotypical. I just want you to know this: When you see us out somewhere, be it a barbershop, grocery store, or doctor's office, don't gawk, don't flash a pitying smile, don't do anything that you normally wouldn't do to any other stranger...

Okay, okay, you can do something...  Open the heavy door.

#SpecialNeeds #parenting #AustinTexas 


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