Saturday, September 12, 2015

"The Question"

We have a new priest at our parish, one from a foreign country.

That was sure to bring "The Question."

"Why are you in the wheelchair?"

Many wheelers don't like the question. I don't like it when it's nearly the first thing said after meeting me, but this priest has been here from several months, and I know he's curious—and I know he's young enough to have been taught modern Catholic doctrine, which means he's not going to lay his hands on my head and command me to "Walk!"

But English is not his native tongue. How to explain? 

That's one of my foibles. I do not want to say "Polio" because the implication is that I was raised by parents who neglected my health. And I didn't want to go into the long, long speech of why I came down with polio.

"Vaccine accident," I replied.

I could see he didn't understand, and so I expanded to "I took a vaccine that my metabolism couldn't handle, or perhaps a vaccine that was contaminated in some fashion.

I could see his confusion, but like other folks who have rolled around for decades, "The Story" is boring to me. You? The priest? You both may be fascinated, but to me, the origin of "The Great Sit Down and Ride Out the Rest of Your Life" is old, old news.

I was kind. I was polite. But I didn't attempt to reduce his puzzlement. 

"How long have you used the chair?" he asked.

"Fifty or so years," I replied. 

When my Dad drove a '57 Ford Fairlane ... 
When we had a black-and-white television and one channel ...
When he scratched out a farm payment selling Class-C milk ... 
When the summer before I hauled milk and hay to get pocket money ... 
When the isolated hill community where we lived still had a local telephone company and an operator who ran the switchboard from her kitchen ...
When I walked down the line of high schoolers getting the Salk vaccine from the local county health department ...
When I woke up in an iron lung and thought, I'll be back in school in a few days playing basketball ... 
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