I was sitting and talking with Bella’s boyfriend and he had several questions to ask my about injury. This young boy has recently turned 17 and is quite mature for his age. He asked me if I could describe the feeling of paralysis and I had him do the finger experiment. He asked about various sensation levels. He asked if it felt anything like you’d experience with a limb falling asleep with the pins and needles sensations. Before all of this he asked me if it would be okay to have an open conversation about my SCI. He has a genuine fascination with all things medical and wants to follow in his mother’s footsteps and become a veterinarian.
I found the questions he asked me about society to be the most interesting. Do I feel as though I face a daily personal struggle against discrimination in society because of my disability? Honestly, I can not say that I do feel that way. We all encounter the rude and overly curious, but in general I find that people treat me and speak to me as I do with them. I feel as though I face more racial discrimination than anything with daily comments of “go back where you came from” that I receive. I’m good with going back to Italy. We’re not exactly a 3rd world country and the people are quite friendly, but it’s not the most accessible environment. I find most people here to be courteous. Strangers hold the door for me as I struggle to manage two children and a baby. I always say thank you and they laugh and say I’ve been there. I’m simply another dad out with my kids most days, and for that I am thankful.
He asked as if a young man with an injury if I feared I’d never find love. I was completely honest and told him that I did not think it would be possible. I wasn’t much of a relationship type of person before my injury. I knew that as I was becoming older and entering that stage of life where we buy homes, get married, and have kids that my odds of finding the type of girl I wanted to marry were extremely low. They had all married good men while I was still young and living it up as a single officer. The thought of not being “enough” was constantly at the forefront of my mind. I didn’t have a disability. I had multiple disabilities and severe PTSD. I honestly thought women would run, so I didn’t bother looking. I had friends who were always trying to make me go out and I did go, but the women knew I wasn’t interested. I didn’t want a fake Barbie. I wanted a woman who was everything, and they did not date guys like me. That’s why I thank God every night for leading me to my wife. She was all I wanted and more. I can’t express the guilt I have for the pain that my insecurity caused her. It took more than a year and a half for her to convince me that she was serious. I honestly thought she was only being sweet because of my issues, not despite them.
He asked me if there was anything that I felt my physical disability stopped or prevented me from trying. I can honestly say no to that question. While I did face a long recovery, have scars, can’t walk, and struggle with speaking out loud, it hasn’t stopped me. My anxiety and fear on the other hand make it a daily struggle for me to leave my home and go into public. It’s beyond terrifying to need to run to the store to grab something. I have panic attacks thinking about it. How am I supposed to get it done? Writing these blogs is not easy, but I enjoy them. I need to read each sentence ten times to take out the double typed words, insert the correct word, and with all of that they are still never right. That is a disappointment, but I’m living the best that I can do daily. I’m sorry if it’s not up to your standards. I wasn’t an English teacher for a reason.
He asked me what I would do differently so that my life didn’t end up this way. Not a damn thing, because my messed up life is too perfect for words, even if I could get them out without stuttering. I have 3 perfect healthy children, a perfect wife, and a life full of love. It’s not the dream I had pictured 11 years ago in my future, but 10 years ago when this journey began I didn’t think dreaming was possible.
I’ve come to accept a lot of things in life. I’ve learned to live around my limitations, but to keep trying. I’ve learned that no dream is impossible, despite what we tell ourselves. I’ve learned my little girl has grown up way too fast. I’ve learned I wasn’t a half bad parent looking at this boy who wants to take my baby away from me one day. He’s a good, respectful, and kind boy. I did teach my little girl well when it came to seeing what is important in people. This boy has a good heart, but no I still don’t like him.