Friday, November 23, 2012
Before Tamika and I got married, we both agreed that we wanted children. For us, it was a no brainer, and all we had to do was make it happen. Easy enough, but it didn’t happen. At least not right away. Despite our best efforts, we’d look on with disappointment as the tests always came back negative.
We weren’t about to let the situation stand, so we swallowed hard and made the necessary doctors’ appointments. After much questioning, prodding, blood tests, and other diagnostic exams, the doctor announced his verdict: “No problem. We should be able to make this happen.” Now, I wasn’t sure about the “we” part because I thought this was kinda personal between Tamika and me, but I appreciated the diagnosis. Well, a few months later, Tamika was pregnant and we reveled in the joy of planning for our first child. We’ve done all the necessary tests and been to all the doctors’ appointments along the way, seen ultrasound photos of our child, and gotten all the pre-natal care that’s appropriate. Tamika has been a champ throughout the process, although she does sometimes have some unpredictable and odd mood swings. I just smile knowing it will all be worth it for both of us in just a short while.
We’re just a few weeks away, and each day feels like a month. Sometimes I catch myself sitting alone smiling, and I realize just how happy I am. This year, 2012, is one to remember for me. I was thrilled to get my new truck early in the year. Then we finished and published “Still Standing” which has been a great joy to me. And now Brailey is due to arrive. I know there are lots of ups and downs in life, so Tamika and I are enjoying every minute of this wonderful year. And as my friend and partner in “Still Standing,” Jon Praet, says: “Dwight, being a Dad is more than marveling at the arrival of your child. It’s also a “doody.” It’s hard to know things for sure in life, but this I know in the fullness of my heart. I just can’t wait to be a dad.
Saturday, November 3, 2012
Living with a disability brings an odd assortment of challenges. One of the oddest and hardest for me was being stared at. I live in a wheelchair. It is my home at home and away from home. It is with me almost every waking minute of every day, and to me it’s become an extension of my body. It’s there like an old trusted friend, and I think nothing of it. But that wasn’t always the case.
Being stared at is an odd sensation. You can feel it in your bones, and even though you can’t see the people behind you, you know they’re looking. It’s very disquieting, and in the beginning, it made me extremely uncomfortable. I hated it. I wanted people to see me for the person I am, not the wheelchair I sit in. I wanted to blend in like everybody else, and I was terribly self conscious. So much so that I often refused to go out because I just didn’t want to deal with it. It was a problem for me, and I knew that if I wanted to be self reliant and make my own way in the world, I would have to find a way to cope.
My solution was a simple one. People would stare and not even know they were doing it. I would look back, and they would turn their heads or avert their eyes. They were busted, and they knew it, but they just couldn’t help themselves. They weren’t cruel. There was no malice, in their hearts, and they didn’t mean to make me feel uncomfortable. It was just hard not to stare. But I found the perfect response. I simply smiled back.
What I didn’t realize at first is that most people didn’t know how to approach me. They didn’t know I had all the same thoughts and feelings they do, and they were at a loss. A smile is such a simple thing. It doesn’t cost a penny, but it’s worth a fortune. I learned that a smile puts people at ease and makes it easier for them to approach me. I can’t tell you how many fun conversations I have engaged in just by curling my mouth upward into a smile. And I learned something else. Part of my job as a person with a disability is to teach others how to approach people like me. A smile makes it easier for everybody. It invites engagement and draws people closer. It says: “Hey, it’s okay to talk to me. My mind is as sharp as yours, and I have things to say.” Along the way, I believe this simple technique has done more to educate people than anything else I have done.