Dealing with invisible disabilities is something that consumes my mind every minute of every day. Even when I try not to think about it. Whether it’s not being able to reach my feet to put on my own socks, to walking up my best friend’s front porch steps, dealing with mobility, breathing and muscle issues is something that I’ve had to manage my entire life. Over the decades, I’ve had quite a few obvious “props” that my body relied on for support, starting with braces on my legs after being born butt first and folded in half…. to wearing a full body cast in high school, wearing countless heart monitors and lugging around a full-size oxygen tank, and even using a scooter and a walker to name a few. In 2016, after learning I had a giant hole in my heart, I underwent open heart surgery. Unless you’ve had your rib cage cracked open….no one will understand the challenges of getting in and out of bed… or getting off the toilet! And while in cardiac rehab, I broke my tailbone which I thought was the straw that broke the camels’ back. But it wasn’t. I feel like one of those domino chains…. you knock the first one into the next…. and well, you know how it goes. Most recently, I’ve been struggling up a storm after pulling/straining the “tensor fasciae latae” in my left hip, thanks to trying to be Gumby in physical therapy and my chair yoga class.
However, in all my nearly six decades of doing the best I can, I had this one incident that nearly brought me to tears. Or pick a fight, which is not at all like me, but was tempting.
My mom, her kindergarten bestie and I enjoyed a beautiful dinner at the Lodge in Canyon Lake. Before we headed to the concert in the ballroom next door, I went into the restroom. A cute bouncy girl came out of the handicapped stall, and I went right in. Honestly, I would have waited for that stall even if another one opened up first. I needed the wall rails to hoist myself up since my hip was in such agony. When I got to the sink to wash my hands, another pretty trendy overly bleached blond woman said to me, “Can I ask you a question?” I was in a great mood, and happily said, “yes of course’’ thinking she’s going to ask me something complimentary like what color of nail polish I had on, or what was the brand of my purse. What came out of her mouth caught me by surprise. She asked, “Why did you use the handicapped stall?” Totally not thinking, I hesitantly said, “‘cuz I have a heart and lung defect and currently have an injured hip and I need the rails.” She then told me in a condescending voice, that her father “doesn’t have two legs” and he doesn’t use the handicapped stall at all. I wasn’t sure where this was going but started putting on my lipstick and she said to me - “You look perfectly fine and totally capable”. I wasn’t sure if that was a compliment or what and just thought it was really weird. She then laid into me about not needing the stall because I looked just fine, and how dare I use that when other people who really need it might not get to because I was in there, etc. I knew I had to leave… and quickly limped out of the bathroom. My mom was waiting for me, and I stood with her and told her to watch for the next girl that comes out of the bathroom, and then I had a story to tell my mom about her. The girl came out gave me a total stink eye, and my mom said, “what’s with that?” So, I told her what happened.
We made our way into the concert hall, and since I was in an end seat, I leaned against the wall so I wouldn’t have to get up and down every time someone needed to squeeze by to get to their seat. The concert was way too loud for us old farts…. and a lot of people were getting up and screaming and yelling and dancing. When intermission came, I leaned against the wall again for all the rowdy partiers to get out of my row. I felt really awkward when the girl who earlier attacked me and her friend made their way over to stand right next to me at the wall. I ignored her. My mom was still in her seat and her friend was just coming back to our row when the blonde chic shoved a cell phone in my face that I guess had a picture of her father with one leg. She basically had to raise her voice to be heard in the crowd and said something like “this is someone who is disabled - and he doesn’t use the handicapped stall.” She rudely shouted, “I see you standing there… you look perfectly fine and capable…” and at that point, I cut her off. She was in my face and in my space…. and I raised my voice back and said, “Look, I was really upset about you going after me earlier… are you coming at me again?” By this time, my mom’s friend was standing with me, and she had no idea of what had happened earlier but could tell there was a verbal altercation. I told the girl to leave me alone, and my mom’s friend told her to get lost. I was one-second away from hollering “security” since there were a few posted just feet away from us. When she moved away, my mom just caught on to what was happening, and her friend was like “what the hell was that about?” I was nervous… but also pissed and ready to rumble. It felt like something back in middle school. Oh My God. This girl was hell bent on attacking me, crazy and completely out of line. My only regret is that I didn’t holler for security to kick her butt out for the verbal assault.
We decided to leave before the last song, because I was afraid of her attacking me once again, and she probably would have gone off the rails if she saw me limping out to my handicapped parking spot right out front. Never mind the fact that I’m with two 83-year-olds who both have handicapped placards as well (and hate to admit, but far more able than I am, lol!).
What’s the lesson I learned? There are several. One is to remember that I am kind, beautiful, worthy, loved, and disabled, and another is to come up with a gracious way of saying, “that’s none of your business.” I’m just not sure I have that in me. Oh, and to always carry ear plugs in my purse.
Hole Hearted Purpose