Last Saturday was another Life Rolls On event in Jacksonville Beach — They Will Surf Again. (For more info – please see my past posts or the Life Rolls On website.) I went, not because I love body surfing, but because I wanted to feel the sand in between my toes and the salt water on my skin. I went because I missed the ocean. Sure, I see it often (even since the move), but this was my chance to get in it.
My enthusiasm was shared by another adaptive surfer named Dani. I spent some time with Dani (who has spini-bifida and who I know from the Brooks program), when we both decided we wanted to sit in the water. Make no mistake — this simple pleasure becomes a huge production when you’re in a wheelchair. Particularly because I was in my power chair, having left my beach wheelchair at a friend’s house during the move. First, we had to notify someone who could track down an empty beach wheelchair. Then, I’d be ferried down, while Dani manuevered her manual chair through the sand. As we waited awhile to be able to carry out this smallest of desires, Dani said to me, “We could’ve crawled into the ocean by now.”
I pictured us scuttling across the sand like crabs, though surely not as smoothly. I laughed.
“Want to? Let’s go for it,” she said, serious.
I did want to go for it, but envisioned the hoardes of helpful volunteers who would descend on us as soon as we left our wheelchairs.
“Just yell, left, right or straight,” she instructed.
Did I mention that Dani is also blind? As if one disability wasn’t enough, she got hit with a double whammy.
I was ready to make a scene, for the sake of a good story, but just then my beach chariot arrived. Once down by the water, we had a friend snap a picture. Looking at it later, I took in my long, Kermit the Frog legs jutting out next to her little ones. I’m not sure we should hang out together — our height difference is exaggerated, making me look like an amazon woman and her like Tiny Tim.
But, it’s fun to hang out with someone fun. I’ve met disabled people who tend to play the victim. Who are defined by what happened to them or the body they were born into. The kind of people who, ten years later, still tell anyone who’ll listen exactly how many weeks/months they were in a coma. Our loved ones often talk about the time we were in the hospital. We don’t. At least not the “we” I want to be around.
We all have our sad stories. Able-bodied and disabled alike. Some are just sadder than others. So lighten up! Don’t let tragedy or circumstance define you. If Dani and I can do it, so can you.