The Normal Kid

Posted: September 19, 2010 in humour, Life
Tags: , ,

Peter was a little odd to look at.

For one thing, he was in a wheelchair.

For another thing, he was all twisted up in it.  And when he spoke, he did so slowly because his mouth and neck were all twisted too.  And he spat a lot when he was talking, too.

To this day, I don’t know what he had.  Whether it was cerebral palsy or whatever.  That was probably what it was.  But at any rate, he was initially very difficult to look at.  People (read: me) felt uncomfortable because of his jerky movements and odd way of speaking.

I don’t know how he broke the barrier of social ostracization in our high school, but he did it.  A few of us, me included, started talking with him more.  Maybe it was because he knew exactly what he looked like, and didn’t care.  Maybe because he was so willing to speak up during class.  Ask and answer questions.  I don’t know.  A few of us became friends with him, but not because we were special or anything.

We found that, after you got past the spastic movements and the wheelchair, ultimately what you had was an older teenage boy, who was mischievous and funny.  The guy was really no different from many of us.  We found a basis for friendship.

Peter loved telling dirty jokes.   As a bona-fide died-in-the-wool long-haired plaid-wearing tight-assed Christian, I found them offensive.  Or tried to anyway.  God knows I tried.  God probably smirked when he saw me biting my lip and then finally laughing out loud.   You could tell when Peter was going to tell one of them.  There’d be a twinkle in his eyes and he grinned hard, as he took a deep breath.  And we’d sit there with him, waiting expectantly.  Me, with a slight furrow to my brow, and my other two friends, just grinning.

One day we sat in the hall way, Peter in his wheelchair and us on the window sill, just outside of the teacher’s lounge.  Peter launched into one of his long-winded jokes.  It took him a lot longer to tell a joke than any of us, because of his condition.  I’m convinced that the length of the joke time extended the hilarity of it.   To this day I can’t recall what the joke was.  Only that, as soon as he told the punch line, the door to the teacher’s lounge suddenly burst open, and the vice principal walked out, glaring.

We were shocked.  We didn’t know if he heard it or not.  (Peter was pretty loud).  But then, as we stared at each other, Peter just burst into gales of laughter.

The vice principal frowned at us all in confusion, and we started laughing too.   We couldn’t help it. nor could we stop.   The VP just shook his head and walked away, while we stayed there, laughing it up.

Peter, like us, loved the girls in our school too.  Especially Maria.   Maria was this cute little button-nosed beauty with shoulder-length dirty blonde hair who smiled an awful lot.  She was gentle too, and not at all stuck up or snobby.   We were all out of her league and we knew it (well, our growing but still limited self-esteem told us that at the time anyway).   Oh, and she wore short skirts too.   That helped.

One day, we were joking around with her, and then we decided to start chasing her.  She let out a high-pitched squeal of laughter and started running down the hall.  My buddy Willis pushed Peter’s wheelchair, while Peter assisted by pushing the mobility handle on the chair, giving it an extra horsepower or two.  Larry and I ran alongside.  Willis looked at me, and winked.  Then he let go of the wheelchair.  And as Maria continued to run, we saw Peter still pushing the wheelchair mobility handle, moving the thing by himself, with a maniacal look of glee on his face.  We stood there and watched, just laughing.  Peter was busted.

I think when teachers saw Peter in his wheelchair, they felt sorry for him.  And I think he milked it for all his worth.  As did we.  We were often late for class.

“Sorry Miss Gannon – but we were helping Peter get to class”.

Miss Gannon would sigh and nod her head.  I don’t think we fooled her.  Mostly because we were too stupid not to realize that she saw us grinning to each other.

I don’t think Peter ever spoke of his condition with us.  He may have explained what it was one time.  I forget.  I think it just wasn’t that big a deal to him.  And it wasn’t for us either.  Eventually we stopped noticing the looks of the other students.  It just didn’t matter.

In my Christian zeal, I may have tried to convert Peter at one time or another.  I’m pretty sure that attempt died an ignominious death.  Back then I probably thought he was just too full of lust.

Which, really, was true.  The guy had a lust for life.  Big Time.

At the end of the day though – he was just a normal kid.

  1. Chickee says:

    =D isn’t that what friendship really is? Seeing beyond someone’s flaws and focusing on the good in them and how you interact and feel when you are around them.

    I would like to say I would have been right there with you but sadly I can not. Back then I would have mainly saw the disease and gone no further.


    • wolfshades says:

      Much as I’d like to take credit for all of this, I really can’t. And that’s not me being modest either – it’s the truth.

      Peter’s presence and force of character drew us to him. He was just a crazy, hilarious person. If it weren’t for him, I’m certain I would have avoided him. I believe it’s human nature to avoid things that we don’t understand or which make us uncomfortable. I’m no different than anyone else in that respect.

      But he was an amazing guy. Don’t know what prompted me to write about him today. :)


  2. contoveros says:

    And, this is anything but a normal post. You got more heart in it than anything I’ve seen any so-called Christian ever put into a loving relationship with another human being. Thanks for sharing your true self with us Wolf.

    michael j


    • wolfshades says:

      Thanks Michael. I wish I could agree with you but I honestly can’t. :) It’s not that I have heart. It’s that Peter had enough heart for all of us. He just infected us with his life of life and his laughter. We were pretty helpless once he got going with us. :)

      I kind of miss him though. Haven’t seen or heard from him since high school, and a cursory look through Google doesn’t pick anything up.

      I did some reading on his condition. Apparently, the more severe it is, the shorter the average life span for someone in his condition. It’s troubling.


  3. Awe….nice post Wolfie! Thanks for telling me about Peter. And reminding me to see beyond…to look be smarter, kinder…


  4. izziedarling says:

    Wolf – you are so talented; when you write about people, you make them so real. Bravo. My cousin had MD and was in a wheelchair from age 6 to 27. So a wheelchair is just a chair as far as I’m concerned. Thank you for this excellent post.


    • wolfshades says:

      Hey Izzie – not too many of us can get past that wheelchair. Sad but true. If we’re lucky, the person sitting in it is larger than his disability and we get to see the real person there.

      Sounds like you and your cousin were pretty lucky to know each other. :)


  5. My sister in law had cerebal palsy and was in a wheel chair. She could speak but only barely. When she did though, her personality shined through the sight of her disabled self. What amazed me most about her was how she was rarely sad. She laughed a lot & made us all laugh.
    A grown woman (lived to 44) bound to a chair & couldn’t even feed herself yet she always smiled & made others smile. It made me realize my small discomforts are nothing to whine about.


  6. One comment for a whole buncha posts. You are a gem, sir. Thank you for this blog. ;-)


  7. e says:

    So, no one knows what happened to him post high school? It’d be really interesting if you guys could reconnect, you know?

    By the way, hi.
    I’m sorry it has taken me so long to get over here and stalk (er, check out) your blog.
    For my first read, I’m blown away — great story. Interesting, funny, heart-felt, captivating, NOT some mommyesque blog. Basically awesome.

    I’m adding you to my google reader subscription as we speak …


    • wolfshades says:

      Hey E! Thanks for coming over!

      Yes, I tried to hunt Peter down now and then, over the years. Sadly, I have to imagine that he’s probably passed on by now. His condition was quite severe.

      I’m honoured that you would add me to your google reader subscription. And a bit intrigued too, as I’ve heard of google reader but have never had occasion to use it. Since you mentioned it, I’ll have to start looking into it. So thanks for that! (I’m a bit of a tech-junkie, so this is right up my alley)

      “Mommyesque”. A new word to savour and use. Thanks for that too. *grin*


  8. Abe's Blog says:

    Just getting back online with my new fancy aircard and reading you out in the middle of Egypt…well not Egypt per se, but deep in the heart of nowhere.

    Great blog! As a daddy of a child who is “different” I have really begun to appreciate those children who do not fit in, and have developed a protective attitude towards them. I think it’s great how you and your friends were able to see beyond the differences and accept the dude beneath!


    • wolfshades says:

      Those aircards are awesome aren’t they?

      I really wish I could take credit for our acceptance and inclusion of Peter, but honestly – the guy was fully at fault for drawing us to him. :) Seriously – I think he determined early on in life that nothing was going to hold him back. Nothing. And it really showed, which is why he had so much confidence and drew us like a fish to water.


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