A Degree in Independence - Post Secondary Crossroads

This is the time of year where soon to be graduating high school students learn which Universities or Colleges they have been accepted in.  They now have to make the gut wrenching decision of where to go.  They will look at many factors - programs, reputation, scholarships/bursaries, etc.

This made me think back to when I had to make the same difficult decision.  In addition to what other kids had to consider, having Cerebral Palsy, using a power wheelchair, and needing to find personal care to help me shower, dress, etc.  This made the decision even more incredibly difficult.

I was torn between my loves of Computer Science and Business.  Also, what was seeming attractive was to take a year off to discover myself like some of my other friends.  I was really struggling.

My dad was watching me struggling to decide.  He said, “Let’s be real, your not going to be a policeman, fireman, or construction worker.  You know what else your not going to be?  Living under my roof for free the rest of your life!  You better decide.”

My dad had a way to be direct and real…

Only now I can appreciate what anxiety my parents were going through.  Not only were they going to have their youngest leave home to start their life journey, but for the first time they were going to have to trust complete strangers to take care of their disabled child who is dependent to have someone get them ups in the morning, shower, dress, get to class, etc…”.  They fought numerous battles with schools and governments to give me this opportunity…now…we were all vulnerable to what was going to become our new lives.  


I had a huge amount of anxiety just dealing with going away for school like all other kids do.  Away from my family.  Away from all my friends.  Away from the only town I have ever known to move to a new city.  

I went away.  I handled the harder academic workload.  I trusted and managed my personal care.  I learned to figure out how to manage to go shopping to buy shampoo and food.  That magical shampoo bottle I had growing up at home that never ran empty did not come with me.  My magical fridge that miraculously replenished itself with more food was also left behind.  
I learned. I overcame. I was lonely. I made lifelong friends. I have amazing experiences, some of them make me appreciate that I went to university pre-smartphone and social media era.  I made mistakes. I got opportunities. I became me.

I have multiple degrees and a diploma as I’m a lifelong learner.  However, what I learned about myself, resilience, and independence far exceeds my academic achievements.

Thank you mom and dad.  We did it. I love you.  

Another segment of - Disabled People Can be Bastards

This week was a pretty emotional draining week for me.  Tuesday was the anniversary of my dad's passing, combined with our neighbor growing up, a close family friend passing away this week.  I could not attend her funeral but I wanted to write this blog about one of my most cherished memories of Anna. In the summer of 1983 I was recovering from one of my many surgeries.  I had full length casts on both of my legs for the whole summer.  My parents borrowed a hospital bed and had me situated in the living room.  Being in the living room allowed me to watch TV and look out the picture window to see what was happening in the world.  Remember, there was no cable or internet then, so entertainment was limited when you could not play outside.

My parents arranged to have Anna (the close family friend) take care of me during the day while they were at work.  Anna was 50-ish at the time.  She was a regular church going lady.  She originally thought that she would take this opportunity to teach me the bible while looking after me.  She gave up after 3 days when I would not accept Joseph had nothing to do with Mary's pregnancy. To her credit, 3 days is still the record of someone trying to teach me the bible.

During that summer my father rigged a switch to the doorbell so I could signal if I needed something.

The next day Anna was down in the basement folding laundry when I needed help.  I hit the switch that triggered the doorbell.  She ran up the whole flight of stairs (25-30), ran past the living room to the other end of the house to answer the door.  Nobody told her about my father's recent doorbell innovation.

This day was about to get a lot more entertaining!

She came back to the living room frustrated that she did not answer the door in time before this supposed visitor left.  She said, 'David when you get older you will find it harder to run as fast as you used too'.  Being disabled, I already had pretty good insight into not being able to run fast.

I waited until she made her way to the basement to resume laundry before ringing the doorbell again.  Again, she ran up the whole flight of stairs, past the living room to the other end of the house to answer the door.  This time I'm laughing so hard that I'm about to wet the bed...especially since the original reason why I clicked the switch was to get help with going to the washroom.

She came back to the living room out of breath.  Anna said, "I bet it's that little bugger across the road that keeps ringing the doorbell and running away".  I think she suspected him because he was riding his bike in his driveway at the time. I replied, "Could be."

Three times a charm!

Anna goes back down to the basement to try and finish the laundry and I ring the doorbell again.  She flies up the stairs cursing. I didn't know that the lord's surname was 'Dammit'.   This time she proceeded to walk out the door, across the street, and 'disciplined' the kid across the road.

Anna came back into the house to find me in tears from me laughing so hard.  She noticed the switch under my pillow and clicked it.  When she heard the doorbell her face was red with anger.  However, she did not do anything...I was surprised.

The next day when she was helping me to the washroom she had a suspicious grin. Long story short, she had placed my urinal bottle in my dad's beer fridge that morning.  It was FREEZING! I still consider myself lucky to this day that I did not get frost bite.

I always found it so ironic that such a religious lady would carry out such an act of revenge.  Isn't revenge a sin?

Until next time...

A Christmas Story

It's that time of the year again when we celebrate the holidays.  It's funny how the holidays remind us of special memories from our childhood.  Playing, school pageants, and Santa. Playing in the snow was not as exciting for me as it was other kids.  Snow and disabled people don't make a great combination.  Still to this day I'm still puzzled how R2D2, the galactic cripple,  moved with such ease around the planet Hoth. My mom would spend an hour bundling me up in a snow suit and put mittens on my hands to go outside to play.  You have all seen my hands, putting mittens on me is as challenging as solving a Rubik's Cube.

Let me take a moment to list the many ways that I could play in the snow:

  1. Make snow angels

That's it. 1 hour to dress. 2 hours of play.  A lot of dumb ass snow angles in the front yard.

When I was young I attended a school with just disabled people.  Like regular schools, they too would have an annual Christmas show.  The major difference was that most of the cast was non-verbal.  It was difficult to tell whether they were singing jingle bells, frosty the snowman, or silent night...it all sounded the same!  Being that I was in the front my back was soaked from their spit.  Their Christmas play was more like an nativity set with Joseph wearing a hockey helmet, given that no one could actually move around on stage.

I remember one time that my mom brought me to sit on Santa's knee so I could tell him what I wanted for Christmas.  Sitting on his knee, Santa asks, "David, Do you want Santa to bring you a new pair of legs for Christmas?"

First off, why is Santa talking in 3rd person?

Second, isn't Santa supposed to listen to what I want instead of drawing attention to me being disabled?

Me and Santa

Third, why do I smell Scotch?

I replied, "The Millennium Falcon, page 345 in the Christmas wish book, with batteries!"

Christmas Eve always brought great excitement...Santa was coming to bring presents!  Would I get the Millennium Falcon or the 'Race 'n Chase' race track?   I remember trying to pretend to be sleeping one Christmas Eve as 'Santa' was attempting to put together (what I would come to find out) a race track.  The cusses of "God D***t, Stupid piece of sh!t," filled the air.  I remember thinking to myself, "Santa has quite a potty mouth for a jolly man".

Me and my race track

We all have special childhood memories of Christmas.  As adults we get to relive the magic of Christmas through little ones.  Instead of receiving - we give.  We give memories for the next generation.

Have a great Christmas everyone!

Until next time...

Being Remembered

I heard once that you start dying the second after you are born. My dad passed away over 13 years ago. I cannot go a single day without thinking of him. He was a great man. I regret that I have more appreciation for him now than when he was still with us. Maybe this is because I have grown into a replica of him.

I wish he could have seen first how all of the sacrifices that he and my mom endured paid off to make their son a man.  I wish he could have witnessed me falling in love to become the husband I'm proud to be.  I wish he could have seen the boy that everyone labeled a 'cripple' evolve into an adult that strives to excel in his profession.  I wish he could see me living a full and independent life.  I wish we could talk.  I wish he could see my eyes water up as I type this.  I wish I could hug him.

We had our struggles and our differences over the years.  It's only now that I know why he was so hard on me.  Society considered me an underdog but he believed in me.  My father could be considered underdog himself growing up.  With a grade 8 education and callus hands from long hours of  hard labour, he became a part owner of a company that employed over 100 employees.

My Dad

When a loved one dies it forces us to stop and take inventory of our lives.  To measure who we are and what we have become.  I don't have those answers for myself but I know who my dad was.  My dad was a strong leader that lead without having to say a word.  He was a man with a huge heart...that it ended up quitting on him from caring and loving so much through his life.  A man that loved stirring the pot and playing countless practical jokes.  A man that worked hard to give me the opportunities I have now.  A man that gave unconditionally in silence.

After my father died I heard stories of his giving nature.  I heard that my father would deliver groceries to his employee that was off work on disability and was struggling to feed his family.  Three weeks after his funeral I received a letter from a church that explained how my father worked on their their furnace many times through the years even though they could never afford to pay for the repairs.   There were many more stories that were told.  My dad never talked about any of these things...that was the type of man he was.

How will I be remembered?  I'm dying to find out.

Until next time...

The Dating Game

Everyone wants to love...and to be loved.  Everyone wants intimacy.  Everyone wants someone to grow old with.  Finding this person is the end game of many trials and errors.  This game is called dating.  It comes with optimism, discovery, anxiety, awkwardness, and self realization.  Dating is a challenge to everyone...especially for me.  This game  started for me in high school and continued to my early 30's. The most common question people have about someone with a disability is if they can have sex.  Let's put it this way, I didn't go through my vasectomy for a good time.  However, this question was always in the back of the mind of  everyone I dated.  Over time I wanted to have my opening line be, "Hi, I'm Dave...and I can do it".  I can disappoint a lady just as well as my walking peeps can.

I didn't start dating until later in high school.  I had to wait until girls got their driver's license.  I realize that dating a disabled guy might not be considered cool, but having my mom drive would have made it worse.  My mom's singing along to her 8-track of Glen Campbell singing 'Rhinestone Cowboy' would not have set the right mood for the date.

Caveman used clubs to begin their courtship.  Our generation used mixed tapes.  I know I'm going to get heckled about admitting this...but I'm sure I wasn't alone in doing this in high school.  When looks are not your selling point, nothing sealed the deal like spending hours making a mixed tape that included  'In your Eyes' and 'Somebody' for that special lady.  If you were smart, you used your dual tape deck to make multiple copies of this love potion in case that week's attempt didn't workout.

When preparing for a date I would think ahead to what I might say.  Obviously she isn't going to be interested with my boring self...so I have to portray what I would be like if I was interesting.   I guess telling her that I scored 4 touchdowns in the high school championship would be a stretch...

In addition to this I would have to manage how much I drank during the day.  No,  not 'liquid courage' but ANY fluid.  I would quit drinking anything at 2pm for a 6pm date.  I didn't want to take the chance that the restaurant washroom wasn't accessible, and asking her to help me might be considered a perverted request.  Gigity!  Alternatively, wetting my pants would not likely lead to a second date (unless I was lucky enough to connect with her freshly after a really bad relationship).

I did not use my wheelchair on dates too often.  Since I'm able to walk with assistance, I would have my date walk me.  Something I discovered while dating, and verified over my 5 years of marriage,  that women do not wear practical shoes out.  Walking me is usually easy...unless you are wearing 4 inch heels.   It was like being walked  along a tight rope.  Having my date walk me assured that at least we would hold hands during our date.  Who's got game?  Davey's got game. Plus, I got to make sure she didn't have 'man hands'.

In an attempt to be independent I would always order chicken fingers so I would not have to ask her to cut my meat up.  Chicken fingers is one of the last socially acceptable thing to pick up and eat with your fingers.  The fact that chicken fingers were on the menu tells you the type of places I would bring my dates too.  Shut up, I'm frugal.

We have all been exposed to being on a date where the other person will talk your ear off over the most uninteresting things imaginable.  When this happened to me, she would say, "You are such a great listener".  Not really...I just can't walk away.  Falling out of the booth and crawling away might have given her the hint.

Even though dating was excruciating, I would not change anything  After a long time playing this game, I finally won my soul mate.

Until next time...

Forever grateful

A lot of my coworkers have little children or are about to have a child.  This has had me thinking about my parents. My parents dedicated their lives to make sure that I have the life I have.

I was born in 1971.  At this time a lot of parents were advised to have their disabled child checked in an institution so they can get the 'care' they need.   Parents were told to not have high hopes as their was not much hope in the world for a disabled person. They  chose the path that no one dared to travel.  They were committed for me to have a life.  A life with highs and lows.  A life of love and heartbreaks.  A life of laughing and crying. A life of success and mistakes.  A life to the fullest.  A life I can call my own.

I'm grateful for your numerous battles with school boards who were not ready to accept me.

I'm grateful for you being a hard ass by making me work all hours of the night to one finger type my assignments.

I'm grateful that you didn't make excuses for me.

I'm grateful that you helped me build an armor shield that I would need to depend on when you weren't around.

I'm grateful for the many hours you spent with me in the hospital rooms telling me the pain would not be forever.

I'm grateful for all the sacrifices you made to buy the special equipment I needed.

I'm grateful for everything I have now.

You did an amazing job in raising someone who is a husband, who is a brother, who is an uncle, who is a son-inlaw, brother-in-law, uncle, and co-worker.  You did an awesome job raising Dave.

We had stairs in our house while growing.  Stairs that were a huge obstacle for me.  Despite asking my dad many times to build a ramp he never did.  For the longest time I thought it was because he couldn't be bothered.  A week before he died he told me that the reason why he never built the ramp was because he would not always be around to build ramps for me in this world...so I needed to be prepared to climb for myself.

For those of you that have children or are about to have a child, remember it's not the material things you give them, it's not about knowing all the right things to do, it's about giving them the opportunity to experience a full life.

I think I'm going to call my mom right now.

Left to right: Mom, Sister, Dad, Me

Left to right: Mom, Sister, Dad, Me







Until next time...