Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I'm Not As Tall As I Stand

For as long as I can remember I have always been the tall, lanky kid. For a quiet and shy boy who just wanted to blend in and sometimes even disappear, it did not help. The idea of sticking out frightened me. I got names like, "daddy long legs" or "green giant"; no "jolly" that I can remember. I don't ever recall sensing a playful tone behind those name callings either; whether they were there or not I was too insecure to hear.
I was constantly hammered with two on-going questions, "how is the air up there?" and "do you play basketball?" I really began to despise those questions. I'm fairly certain that a foot or two shorter than myself and the air was and is exactly the same, and at present time, being six foot four inches I can tell you I never have played and have no intentions to play professional basketball. I may have touched a ball once or twice but I was on no team in or out of school. It was just not my game. I have trouble with the whole dribble, move, watch concept; I did then and I do now. I may shoot some hoops but that's it.
If and when I was dragged to a school dance or out to a club with friends, I stuck like glue to the wall. The glue eventually came off, but I still remained close. I got this self conscience thing going on where I'd be afraid people were watching and laughing. "Watch the tall kid," I would hear in my mind. For similar reasons I never liked sitting in the front row; still don't really. I used to slouch too, not just sitting, but walking around. I was told it had to do with me being asthmatic and instinctively wanting to protect my chest from the cold. And while that may have been true I think I was also shying away from my fear and confusion to things in the outside world.
Over the years growing up I've been through quite a bit and learned a lot that I'm thankful for. But two things that really stick out in my mind when it came to me really standing up were my mom and the memory of a kid named Roger.

My mom took a serious fall quite a few years ago and the result was an acquired brain injury that haunts her to this day and will for the remainder of her life. Even before the accident I was nervous about things, a bit fearful in fact, depressed, a little lost, unemployed, no girlfriend, few friends; I really didn't think of my life as much of a success story. I had lost my grandparents, my dad too. Now this thing with mom!
I could have easily thrown in the towel, but I didn't. I had friends; I had my sister; and I still had my mom. She deals, very well I might add, with her barriers in life, and from that I knew I could to. One of the first days my mom was in the hospital I recall being at home, sitting quietly in her room, going through papers I wasn't even looking at. My sister came in, stood by my side and placed her hand on the top my head. She said nothing and only sighed. I did eventually hear a voice though, inside, and it said, "Stand up." So I did.

I went through a writing program once and I did real well. I enjoy writing and I really do consider it a great source for therapy. After graduating from the program, with honors I might add, and learning all that I did, I took on a very personal assignment. I put together a short story which I titled "Taking The Time", a story about me and what it was I went through. It led me to researching some things about my illness as well as taking a trip down memory lane with a fairly thick scrap book my mom and dad had put together for me; included in it were drawn pictures from my sister, stories from my best friend, and "Get Well" cards I received. Quite a few of those cards were from the students that were in my classes from school.
I recalled, after reading all of those cards that brought a smile to my heart, that when I returned to school a year later (which you can read about in my dissertation "Breaking Down Barriers")  I befriended a classmate named Roger. Grade one was so long ago things are a bit hazy and I don't remember a whole lot about Roger, I can't even recall his last name. But when the teacher had an announcement to make, a lesson to teach or wanted to tell a story and would gather all of the kids down in front, Roger would encourage me, and challenge me, to sit up straight and tall. And that's what I did.

So now at thirty-eight years old and at a height of six foot four inches tall I know that I stand much taller than my physical appearance. Maybe it is why some people continuing asking me if I'm still growing. I suppose I am still growing, in a way. I'm still learning and I know that there is no age when you stop learning. There are times that I still get confused and scared, but I know now that it is alright. I know how to get through difficulties in life because I am aware of my self worth. I used to be frightened and even embarrassed of the barriers I face from my disability, but I cherish everything I have learned and still learn by it.
I am still shy and quiet. I still hug the wall when it comes to dancing. I suck at basketball. But I laugh and have fun and I stand tall and proud everyday because I know I can. Life has allowed me to do that. Life allows us all to do that.

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