Well, this happened today (one of many works I haven’t completed):
When I was young, as far back as I remember, anyway, people used to ask me, “What’s it like to be disabled.” At that time, I used to answer, “I just am.”A few years later, I would answer, “I don’t know any difference, so I cannot say. What’s it like to be ‘normal’?” This is startled them; they usually got silent before quickly changing the subject. It was a cheeky answer, I know. It got my point across without my having to explain myself further. Perhaps, it even gave them something to ponder. This was who I was back in those days – a smart aleck at times.
Another question I got asked a lot was, “Why do you walk like that?” Usually asked by a five-, six- or seven-year-old snotty kid as the kid mimicked my right foot turn in and dragged his foot along the ground with their mother looking horrified that their kid just blurted out the most embarrassing question any kid could blurt out by asking a cripple what’s it like to be crippled. A note here: I grew up using the word: “cripple”, so you’ll forgive me if I continue using the word here. If this makes you feel uncomfortable, then so be it.
I will skip over the boring details. Suffice to say that I was a preemie (two months). I weighed two pounds and two ounces, for those who prefer metric, I weighed one kilogram. Back in 1962, I know, you don’t have to say it, “I am ancient”, when one was born that early they put you in an incubator and hoped you survived. I am nearly didn’t. My dad once told me that he had almost stopped checking in on me because I would stop breathing once in awhile and just when it seemed I wasn’t going to breath again, I would inhale. It freaked him out a bit. Once I was out of the incubator, he knew that I would be okay.
I grew up in the projects. It was Lawrence Heights Project to be exact. It was built in the fifties up near Yorkdale Shopping Centre, which at that time was just a step up from being a strip mall. Yorkdale turned out to be quite the hangout joint when I was growing up. One of my favourite things about the mall was that it had (SS) Kresge’s. There was nothing like the restaurant and ice-cream parlor like Kresge’s. It was the perfect teen hangout. Anyway, I digress; I will continue with this opening narrative.
I had a mild case of Cerebral Palsy. Specifically, I had mild diplegia spastic cerebral palsy which affected mainly my legs with my right leg being worst than my left leg; my right foot turned in leftward and I used to drag it somewhat along the ground. I am surprised I didn’t fall more often than I already did.
—Robert Confiant 14 June 2020