Thursday, April 24, 2008

Rachel

This morning at the library I got a call from the woman who works in the front office of the elementary school. I've known her since I was very young because her daughter and I went through all 12 grades together. I was really surprised to hear from her and asked her what was going on.

"Well, today is kindergarten registration," she said,"and we have a little girl here who reminded me instantly of you. "

"Huh. Okay, why?"

"Her name is Rachel and she's missing her leg. Her mom is a little worried about Rachel going into gym class and I was telling them all about you - about how you took acrobatics and how you never let anything stop you and how you inspired all of us. I told her that if you could do it, Rachel could too."

"I...I..." Tears started welling up and I couldn't stop them. I was standing at my desk, in the middle of the library. "You're making me cry, Nancy."

"No, no! Don't cry! I wanted to call and make sure you were at work today and to see if it'd be okay if they came over to meet you. I think it would mean a lot to them."

So a little while later Rachel (and her twin brother Jack) came to visit me at the library. Rachel had been born with amniotic band syndrome and her brother had been born normal. I saw them come in, Rachel was holding her mom's hand and walking toward my desk with the distinctive gait of an above the knee amputee, and Jack was running ahead.

A little shy, Rachel shook my hand and seemed to want to escape to the books and toys in the children's section. But when I said,"You know what? I have a leg a lot like yours," she looked up at me and smiled. Suddenly we were both sitting on the floor, pulling up our pant legs and comparing hardware.

I found out that Rachel calls her prosthesis "Lucky." In the film Finding Nemo, a baby clownfish (Nemo) is born with a birth defect. One of his fins is smaller than normal and the father fish calls it Nemo's "lucky fin." I laughed when Rachel's mom told me this because when I saw the movie, I related to it too - and I'm sure every amputee can.

A bit later, while Rachel and Jack entertained themselves with books, I spent some time talking with Rachel's mom about how it was to grow up as an amputee, how it was to go to school with "normal" kids.

I warned Rachel's mom about teasing because for the first few weeks of kindergarten, I was teased by a classmate. I had never been teased before. I guess by that age I knew I was different, but I didn't know that my leg was something that could be made fun of...I didn't know that other children could be so mean about something I had no control over. I couldn't help the way I was made. I came home crying from school, either too ashamed or too scared to say why. When my mother finally persuaded me to tell her what was happening, she made arrangements to come to my school and explain to my classmates why I was the way I was and that it didn't change who I was inside. I never had another problem after that.

"I know it's going to happen," Rachel's mom said. "The first time she gets teased it will just devastate me."

Yeah, I thought, and Rachel too - 28 years later and sometimes it still hurts. I gave her my phone number and offered to be there for them if they ever needed to talk. "But she's going to be fine, you know." I looked over at Rachel, happily playing with her brother. "Everything's really going to be okay."

As they were leaving Rachel's mom gave me a big hug. "Thank you so much. This has made my day." I guess I had been able to reassure her and give her some hope.

I grinned at her. "Oh, no...you have totally made my day. You have no idea." I've been smiling ever since.

30 comments:

Lydia said...

Even though you are a pint (see the beer reference) sized girl, I have always looked up to you. And I don't think Rachel could have found a better ally.

And in a few years, you can take mini-you shooting.

Breda said...

Don't you make me cry, too, Lydia!

Squeaky Wheel said...

What little girl wouldn't wanna grow up to be like Breda? Sassy, self-assured, and adorable. If you had two full legs, I think it'd be too much for us to handle. ;-)

Good job, Breda - seriously. That was a wonderful thing for you to do, and you just gave that little girl hope to hang onto if she ever gets down on herself.

Lydia said...

Well, you could always tell the little girl about your cluelss friend Lydia who didn't realize you were an amputee for years. I always thought you were wearing weird support stockings or something.

Joseph said...

Breda, you are a sweetie...she thinks, "Am I the only one like this?" and then gets to meet a happy, smart, educated woman who obviously doesn't let anything stop her. What a great example!!

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

If Breda had two full legs, she'd kick my ass. So I have mixed feelings.

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Earl said...

You really are beautiful when your heart is in the picture - this day beats off the bad in so many ways. Lots of lovely women, and future wonder woman in this picture. Go gently but with such grace.

The Earth Bound Misfit said...

(Loud applause)

That was a mitzvah. I suspect that one day will be a significant day in young Rachel's life. And some day, maybe several decades from now, she will help a young child (or many) and your kindness will live on.

That was one of the most moving blog posts I've ever read, Breda. Thank you for posting it.

Sailorcurt said...

One of the (many) things I learned from my father is that no matter how insignificant we feel our actions, attitudes or exploits to be, we are ALWAYS affecting other people, either positively or negatively.

You obviously had a very positive impact on the people who held you up as an example and you are continuing that with your new little protege.

You have much to be proud of, and I'm proud to know you.

Bob said...

Beautiful story, thanks for sharing it!

Christina LMT said...

Thank you. I think this must be a record. Two blog posts within minutes making me cry!

You are an inspiration to ALL of us, Breda.

heartofawarrior said...

Thought you might like to see this :-)

Mark Alger said...

Now you got ME crying.

Well done!

M

Anonymous said...

Breda,

Very well done! It is such a blessing to give of yourself to someone else and make their day! What inspiration you may have given Rachel. What a blessing you have given to us for sharing.

Thanks
Dr. Joe

Turk Turon said...

Wonderful. Definitely a mitzvah.

phlegmfatale said...

and now _I_ am smiling too. My nose got tingly and my eyes misted, and now I have the most warm toasty feeling. Lovely post, Breda, from an equally lovely woman. You may have just unlocked the door to that little girl finding her way fearlessly through life. Bless her, and bless you!
Oh, and I'll bet you've got a friend for life, too.

Jay G said...

You so totally rock, your middle name should be "Plymouth"...

kaveman said...

Hey Breda, I might get thrown out of the guy club for revealing our secrets, but I wanted to share something.

Men only see 5 different types of women.

1. unattractive
2. cute
3. pretty
4. gorgeous
5. beautiful

The first 4 are based purely on physical attributes. #5, however, combines mind, body and soul.

You, Breda, are a beautiful woman.

And I hope I made you cry.

Kevin said...

Soooo...

When are you taking Rachel and her mother to the range?

(I keed! I keed!)

Good job, Breda!

Willorith said...

Breda-

I am a big tough weldor, machinist, shooter man. You make me cry and laugh with tears of joy. I read your blog every day and each day i like you more and more. keep blogging and shooting and libraring.

Gray said...

What a great story! Thanks for posting it.

BobG said...

Glad to see you were able to take your past pain and use it to soften hers, and make it a little more bearable in the trials that we know she will experience growing up.
And I'm certain you'll be a good role model in the coming years.

TJH said...

:o)

You're bordering on living saint.

SpeakerTweaker said...

I haven't the words.

Good on you, Miss Breda.



tweaker

count limus said...

Breda, Breda, Breda,
From the first time Mike introduced you to me I have never thought of you as "normal". The huge intellect, rapier like wit and tremendous thirst for knowledge pegged you as "abnormal" on the spot. I didn't notice the foot till you pointed it out.
Thank God for "abnormal" people,
Ed

J.R.Shirley said...

Thank you. I wish I could hug you both. It is amazing to me that people can be so cruel over things others have no control over.

Chewing with your mouth open? Constantly interrupting? These things people choose to do, but we can't change where we're from or (usually) our parts.

John

Brandon said...

That is a wonderful story. It is moments like those that make this life worth living.

Weetabix said...

You're a nice lady, Breda.

Carl H said...

good on you and Rachel too