I’ve met a lot of people from all kinds of places around the world, and the more people I meet the more I get asked about what happened to me? And its not because of my mental state or some of the things I post on here that lead to that question! That being said, I think most of us amps have been the victim of at least one rude stranger with absolutely no interpersonal skills or tact, that blindly appear out of no where and asks what happened? And all depending on how well our prosthesis is fitting that day or how we feel about ourselves at that particular time, and how many people have already pointed and stared for the day, will dictate the answer some people get. That being said, small children and really old people are fair game and I will never be an ass to either one of those sectors of society. I figured, with kids, explaining what happened to me and talking to them about my accident and prosthesis could potentially lessen or even eliminate the stigma attached to being an amp. And with old people? I figured, with age their tact filters are all worn out and they are going to ask. Here is an excerpt from my book tilted, The Serious Business of Laughing at Life about the three weeks after my accident when I had to live in a nursing home.
…As I learned to get out of bed and into my wheelchair with minimal help, I started traveling the halls of the nursing home meeting new faces. The first day or so, most of the residence stared at me before gathering the courage to ask what I was doing there. When they finally got around to it, they used little tact and came right out with a, “What are you doing here?” or “What happened to you?” I laughed every time because they never beat around the bush. In their minds, time was of the essence, I guess. Initially I answered their inquiry with the long version of my story, thinking I had a great tale to tell, but after one resident fell asleep during my story, I started telling them, “I had a wreck” And kept the explanation to a minimum. Then that usually was enough for them before they got bored. Besides, I knew they had hundreds of experiences I could only read about in history books, I wasn’t going to impress them with a motorcycle wreck. The stories they had were about fighting the Germans during War World II and starving during the Great Depression, participating in the civil rights marches and watching Kennedy’s assassination. Mine? I hit a tree. I couldn’t compete.
During my second week at Mount Holly, I took the opportunity to meet some of the residence and spent many hours listening to stories about grandchildren, their deceased spouses and the favorite pet they once had. Usually they put their trembling hand on my arm as they spoke. Many carried around tattered and faded pictures of their family, ready to show anyone who cared to take the time. Like a pro-athlete from days past, they relived their life through their stories, just like it happened yesterday; sometimes they cried, most times they laughed. But as I sat there, admittedly sometimes bored listening to their stories, I couldn’t help to wonder if their family still came to visit or if we spoke of people who long ago forgot about them as they lived out their final days stashed away in the confines of the nursing home. They truly were part of a great generation.
Having that three week experience in the nursing home taught me that, sometimes people mean no harm in asking what happened. The elderly especially. Have I been rude back to people my own age who knew better? Yes I have, and it was on one of those days I wasn’t feeling good about myself. Was it right, no. Did I look like another bitter amputee, yes? How you respond to that question will be up to you, but what I learned is, if you kind of have some idea of what you are going to say when the question arises, you’ll feel less stressed, help show the world that we are normal people too and the encounter will end quicker is you want it to.
Last, I know of two new members to our elite amp club over the last two weeks who are going through the same doubts most of us had in the beginning. Keep them in our thoughts and stick together for each other.
Also, my book is available on amazon.com on in hard copy and e-books and my funny amputee t-shirt store is up and running at cafepress.com/thefunnyamputee