The Price of a Memory

As I sold parts of my past in the garage sale, I began to become possessive and even critical of what people were willing to pay for my treasures.  My memories…
“How much do you want for these?”
This question was posed numerous times. What should I charge for the objects carefully researched and bargained for years ago?
The cherished pair of Wolverine boots I wore with Jennifer as we saw the Statue of Liberty and in the New York City subway when the homeless man gave me his sermon about who sat to the right of Jesus. As Jennifer & I froze in the crowd of The Today Show audience my feet were kept warm by these boots.
The Juicer that ground the pounds of organic carrots once my sight started to slip away got bargained down to three dollars.
Luckily, a neighbor brought me a box that had a piece of jewelry I bought for myself twenty years ago. “I don’t think you meant to sell this,” he commented as he handed me a velvet box that was in a box labeled everything’s a dollar.
I had spent hundreds on the piece of custom carved amethyst. It brought back all of these memories and the joy of wearing it. I brought it back into the house and placed it next to the Master’s ring I bought for myself in 2002. I was so proud of the ring. I have not worn the ring in ten years. I would let that ring go with no regrets but the boots vexed me.
I realized that the precious memories will always be with me. Those boots that allowed me to experience great joy could carry the next person onto making cherished memories for that guy. The price I let them go didn’t reflect and could never reflect the price I hold on those memories.
Objects may have a price tag, but my happiness is not for sale. Letting go of the trivial to clasp what truly carries you through Only Makes Me Stronger.

Scars

“Can I touch your scar?” she said. High school freshman have anxiety about a lot of things, but I was speechless.

The scar on my leg and forehead were my focal points of what I was certain kids would ridicule me. A well orchestrated and highly hair sprayed curtain of bangs covered my scar on my forehead. One might think I would have never worn shorts to hide the most visible scar. I had two clear deficits: I was a teenager and a male. Suffering from hormone poisoning, logic and reason were far out of reach.
My deepest fear was I would be judged on my scars. A small fear became larger and until it was completely unrealistic.
In theater class, a certain girl and I happened to sit together often. She was poised and relaxed. I never heard a negative word come out of her mouth. In at time in life where teenagers can be awkward and create drama out of thin air, this girl was a class act.
 
As a young child, she played in the family’s garage during a most unfortunate time. An empty gasoline can, that was closed, suddenly and unexplainedly  exploded. She sustained burns on half of her body. Half of her body was untouched The other half was scarred. 
There she sat in class. She was confident, acknowledged her humanity without any indication of insecurity, and allowed me to feel at ease within myself.
 
In an audition in the 1970s, Barbara Streisand auditioned for a part. As the story has been told, the director did not want her for the lead but the producer persisted. The director stated she didn’t have the looks to carry the leading role. The producer said, “Just see her sing.” The director later remarked that her beauty came through as Streisand sang.
 
All that girl had to do was speak to you and her beauty showed through. And her hugs, forget about it. Twenty years later, her hugs would disarm the most guarded of people.
 
“Oh. Your scar is soft and smooth. I wish mine were as soft as your scars,” her words still fresh in my mind to this day.
 
We all carry scars. Some can be covered. Other scars are visible for all to see. There are those of us with emotional scars. Those emotional scars may run deep and be a source of shame, insecurity, or guilt. 
 
Funny thing about scars. Scars show healing. Where once there had been a wound. Through time, patience, grace, and care, the wound has been replaced by a scar. Whether physical or emotional, wear that scar proudly. You survived. One must do those things to promote healing and allow that wound to transform. Like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly, give it time to go through the metamorphosis. Remember, scars show healing has taken place.
 
Allow the beauty of healing to emerge and flutter for all to appreciate. I have been shown that when I am unashamed of my scars, the resulting confidence Only Makes Me Stronger.

Coping & Compensating

With my father mowing the backyard, his distraction provided my opportunity to pursue my mission. Carefully I scaled the six foot chain link fence to freedom. Successful on my very first attempt, the plan was coming together nicely. I hopped onto my ride and prepared for launch. A brand new 1975 Big Wheel would carry me on the Lion’s Share of the journey to meet up with my girlfriend down the street.

Determination as my copilot, I rocketed down the downhill  driveway. Zooming through the street, the adrenaline reassured me that nothing could stop me. Unfortunately, the curb on the other side of the street wouldn’t allow my back wheels up so I backed up to get a better run at it. Just before I began to pedal my way to victory, a car hit me on my left side.
My three year old body and the Big Wheel were being dragged down the street. A neighbor, who as she swept her driveway, witnessed the entire event and ran into the street to  block the car.
The 16 year old girl was completely unaware that a child was lodged under the front tire. The conversation with her friend in the passenger seat garnered her attention long enough that she took her eyes off the road. Had the neighbor not run in front of the car with her hands up, the 16 year old driver would have continued to drive and end my life.
As it stood, my three year old body had been stuck between the bumper and the tire for 90 feet. The bumper had split my head open and my legs were trapped under the tire. The screams drew the attention of the neighbors which included my father. The year was 1975. The car was American steel and was perfect to fit the surroundings of a working class town outside Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.
A man and my father embodied proof the legend that endorphins can allow the human body to do what seems impossible. The two men lifted the heavy steel car so others could pull my body out from under the vehicle. an hour or more from a hospital and long before the invention of 911, my parents put me in the back of their Volkswagen Dasher and sped towards the nearest medical facility. Never losing consciousness, I cried the entire forty minute trip. An ambulance took me from the original hospital because my injuries were so severe that the hospital could not address them properly.
Medical technology has come a long way in the forty years since my legs were broken and the injury to my head. Proving that true caring and doing the best the doctors could, my bones were put in traction and my wounds were tended to with tenderness. I had to learn to walk, again. One leg slightly longer than the other and a few missing ligaments, a three year old doesn’t have the same mental obstacles that a forty-something person may have when dealing with an impairment. A large scar and a modified gait to my step are the only remnants of the injuries to my legs. A Harry Potter scar on my shaved head adds character.
Perry (my guide dog) and I have ventured out further and further from our home. At first I would only walk a small block. As my confidence and endurance built up, we slowly added more time to our route. Going over the same route, Perry grew bored. Through a series of misadventures, our route blossomed. We hit the two mile barrier and I began to feel pain in my hip. The same leg that sustained the majority of the damage gave me pain that I had never experienced. X-rays and a MRI of my hip and thigh were biologically sound. The doctor explained that from my childhood, I learned to walk in an adapted manner to compensate from an earlier trauma. What I thought was normal, under more stress, had proven to put more pressure on the rest of my system.
While he described the physical realm, I concluded the same is true for the psyche. Whatever trauma one may experience as we grow is compensated. Whether buried, channeled into other areas, or expressed, the motion may seem normal at a glance.
The words “can’t” are not there in the three or four year old’s mind. Perseverance, even through tears and tantrums, is still perseverance. As an adult, “can’t” and many other words are my reality. Now I try to use the word “can’t” for my own good. “I can’t give up!”  I reflect back on that three year old who struggled to walk once more. I think back on the gift I have been given. My story could have been written that day in 1975. I will make it through these challenges. Facing them head on Only Makes Me Stronger!

Where the story begins…

I watched that night’s broadcast of “Little House on the Prairie” along with millions of other viewers, but for me it created an emotional scar that is etched in my memory. That night’s episode was the story where Mary woke up totally blind. Out of all the episodes that could have played on that particular night, it had to be that one.  But I’m getting ahead of my story…

I loved the Three Stooges as a kid. I was the dutiful student who got up early, did my homework on Saturday mornings before I could watch my hero, Curly, bounce off walls, walk in circles on the ground, and bark at lifeless objects.  So my parents thought when I’d walk into a tree or clothesline, I was just imitating Curly, and they laughed. I did it with such conviction and fearlessness. There wasn’t a pole that I wouldn’t bump into that I didn’t get a laugh from someone.

Leaving early from an Angels game when I was six, my Pop hurried us to get to the car so we could beat the crowd. I walked full force into a parked car and really hurt myself. “Chad, it is getting old. Would you stop already? It isn’t funny anymore,” my father said.

“I wasn’t trying to be funny,” I replied as I picked myself off the ground. “I didn’t see the car.”

“You can’t see that car?” he inquired.

“You can?” I asked.

Children fill in the gaps of their understanding to make sense of the world. I had figured that the reason they didn’t walk into cars, poles, or trees was that they were adults. Some day, I thought, I would reach a level of maturity and be able to see at night too.

My parents scheduled an appointment with an eye specialist. I called out letters on the lighted board, told what numbers or letters were hidden in these bubble pictures, and had a couple of doctors look into my eyes with some device. The doctors explained to my parents that I was Night Blind. Bedside manners and wording with children have come a long way. I had only heard one word and all the pieces of the puzzle were there.

I can still remember how Mary called out, “I’m blind!” in dramatic fashion with her eyes straight in front of her and opened wide to emphasize some sort of stereotypic effect. That night, I filled in the gaps of my misunderstanding. Mary had something happen to her; she woke up the next morning and she was blind. The doctors told my parents something about me being blind but I wasn’t. Without asking anyone, I had concluded that if I didn’t fall asleep, I would not wake up blind like Mary. So I stayed up to the best my little body and mind could muster until sometime in the early morning hours. I woke up with the relief that I was not blind, but the seed had been planted: blindness happens overnight.

The “Little House” storyline really couldn’t have been more damaging from that point. Mary was shipped off to a blind school and got involved with another wide eyed, never blinking guy.

After encouragement from many friends, I began this blog to share my unique perspective on life and the lessons losing one’s sight can bring.  Until now, I’ve resisted documenting certain details of my journey from a fully sighted life into a life with blindness. From my perspective, I realize that no matter the experience, the lesson learned Only Makes Me Stronger. The challenges in life Only Make Me Stronger. Whatever life may bring me, I know my reflection on those events Only Make Me Stronger.  With this blog,
I will bring you thoughts from experts (Victor Frankl, Malcolm Gladwell, Rick Carson, and many more), as well as perspectives from friends, family, and my guide dog (Perry).

Come with me! Let us find wisdom, explore the possibilities, and keep optimistic. My goal is to spread the maxim that no matter the experience, the opportunity exists to develop coping mechanisms, healthy techniques to avoid known pitfalls, and reframe the experience.