The Disappearing Wheelchair
Since Jacob’s birth, 5 years ago, I‘ve noticed my wheelchair has become a lesser part of my identity. It’s as if my wheelchair is disappearing! In my head, I wonder if society has changed drastically in the past 5 years or has my becoming a dad become equalizer in society?
It’s hard to remember life before my son. However, how I was treated is not hard to remember. Children would stare and whisper things. Even, adults would look at me or make really crazy absurd comments. One example, before Jacob, if we went out to dinner the server would ask my friend sitting closest to me what I’d like to eat. I’ve not experienced this since Jacob.
As Jacob gets older and his social life takes over ours; it has become more apparent to me that I’m known as Jacob’s dad. This past December, some friends invited us to their house for a Hanukkah party. Normally, I’m not one to go to people’s houses simply because I know I will need help in and then once I’m inside I don’t know if I can get around and I worry the wheels on my chair will dirty their carpet. Again, since having Jacob I get out of my comfort zone. We accepted the invitation.
I knew there would be kids there I didn’t know so the morning of the party I had to get my mind ready for THOSE questions and at the same time think about Jacob and what his reaction might be if he overheard the blunt questions kids ask!
Why are you in a wheelchair?
Why can’t you walk?
Why do you talk weird?
The list goes on. But you get the idea!
When we got over to our friends house Jacob walked up the steps and rang the doorbell. Our friends came out and helped me in. When we got in and our jackets off. I turned around like a linebacker ready to tackle any question thrown at me. To my dismay, not a single question … nothing! The only thing I heard was “cool wheelchair” from one little girl. In fact, kids were coming up to me asking me for help opening things and stuff like that. Not a word about my chair or speech impediment. When we left and got in our van I turned to Rachel and said to her something like did that just happen? She knew what I meant.
The same sort of thing happens at the baseball field. Everyone there, refers to me as “Coach” or “Jacob’s Dad” and occasionally, if I’m lucky, I’ll get called by my actual name! Not often but it does happen.
So, this brings me to a philosophical question. In the last 5 years as society changed so much that disability is less of a “thing” or has my status of “Dad” pushed my disability or wheelchair down on the hierarchy?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter @wheelchairdaddy !
I have not experienced being the “daddy” but as the uncle of two newborns in the last four years I think the babies seem to make the wheelchair disappear. Seems like people see the children first. It also seems that children don’t care if you are sitting in a wheelchair or not. They may ask questions the first time we meet but soon they don’t care about the chair. Personally, I have no problem answering the questions. I’d rather explain it so they don’t sit there and wonder.