Growing up with a disability can be challenging, this is true. But one thing I knew for sure is
that I had the most fierce protector anyone could ever have and this protector helped me rise
above those challenges with an innate fighting spirit. That protector with superhero strength was
My mother fought quite often for my equal rights at school. For example, when the teachers,
who were extremely overprotective, appointed other children to run bases for me during a
softball game, my mother expressed her opinion to the principal that everyone should have the
right to participate in class wide games, even little girls with heavy leg braces. Because she
advocated for me, I never had to sit on the sidelines as a spectator. I became a true participant,
even though I was as slow as a turtle. My mother’s advocacy taught me perseverance. That
perseverance gave me the courage to play little league baseball. Being the only girl on the team I
knew I had to be good or else. And I was. I learned to hit with one hand and to catch the ball by
putting the glove on my left hand and then quickly sliding the glove off and throwing the ball
with the same left hand. Years later I wrote a letter to Jim Abbott, a great baseball player who
played for the New York Yankees, caught the ball with one hand and used his glove just as I had.
He wrote back, pleased that my second grade class was studying about his life. Even though we
were from different worlds, I felt a kinship with him. Someone else played baseball like I did.
Part of my spirit faded when, many times I heard the word “crip”, my nickname on the
playground. It seemed that being a girl and being a girl with a disability was the worst part of my
life. It didn’t matter that I conquered the challenge of bike riding. It didn’t matter that I learned to
throw and catch a baseball. It only mattered that I was female and defective.
It is interesting how these attitudes shaped me into the person I am today. My mother
instilled in me a compassionate spirit and a desire to change the lives of others along with a
strong sense of independence and the stubbornness to fight for equality. Even today I find it
amazing that my mother’s words motivated me to follow my dreams and to survive my peers
taunting cruel words with superhero strength. My goal was, above all, to prove how wrong they
were about me.
My mother’s desire for me to be the best I could be was the focus of much of her life. Three
afternoons each week, after working in a sewing factory, my mother drove me to my physical
therapy appointments fifty miles from our home. Back then I thought she was mean to make me
endure painful physical therapy sessions.
The summer my mother drove me to a residential summer camp that focused on activities to
help me become more independent was my worst childhood memory. I remember clinging to her
legs at the entrance while she gently removed my hands. I stood with the camp counselor
watching her drive away, tears streaming down my face. In my eight-year-old mind I felt
abandoned and scared. However, it was there I learned to become independent and with
extensive physical and occupational therapy, gained much better control of my muscles. I also
learned how to enact and socialize with others from different backgrounds, creating a strong
sense of tolerance. As the years have passed I’ve come to realize that my amazing protector
knew what I needed, even when I didn’t. Until next time…