I’m not sure which classic novelist or literary figure first said, “Write what you know,” but the advice is still sound. So without any ado, I’d like to share with you an inspirational, and perhaps motivational, story to spark the right amount of hope, encouragement, or determination in you or someone you love.
My father was handicapped long before I was born. When he was in college back in the 70s, he was with some friends in a dorm room when someone realized they’d locked themselves out of the room next door. My father offered to climb out of the room’s window and into the room next door to unlock it. Despite his claims that he’d done this before, he was not successful this time. He fell three stories and met the concrete.
The doctors did what they could—he was lucky to be alive, but his back was broken. They ruefully explained he would never walk again, nor would he ever have children. His vertebra had shattered, and to repair it, doctors fused it together with bone from his hip. His nerves had become so entangled they would never again properly transmit messages to his lower body.
As a young college student, his life may have seemed over. He missed some time in school and fell behind all of his classmates. But during his rehabilitation, he made a choice to live his life the way he wanted, not according to what doctors or anyone else said.
Within a year, my father was walking again. I’m told he had a slight limp, but he was increasing his mobility. He took summer classes and graduated right on time. Shortly thereafter, he fell in love and married the most incredible woman I’ve ever known. He and my mother are still happily married.
Not only did my father get up and walk again, but he is “Dad” to me and my sister. Even more, he coached my pee-wee soccer team and became the beloved long jump coach to my middle school track and field team. I have good friends who still say he fueled their interest in the sport.
When I was a teenager, Dad’s disability started to have a more significant effect on what he was “capable” of doing. One of my most distinct memories was one New Year’s Eve when he, my mom, and I stayed at a cabin in the Pocono Mountains. We went trudging through the snow with some friends to find a frozen waterfall that was supposedly breathtaking. At one point in the trail however, the slope became too steep for my dad to continue and too narrow for one of us to help him. He insisted my mom and I go on, and we reluctantly agreed to meet him back at the cabin.
Just after arriving at the waterfall and admiring its beauty, my mom and I turned around to see my dad walking towards us. He had made it. Over a mile in knee-deep snow, he made it. I’ll never know how he did it or what he was thinking throughout his journey. As a man of few—but important—words, his only explanation was, “I wanted to be with you guys.” That was answer enough for me.
As he's grown older, his physical disability has become more apparent, causing him to find struggle in simple tasks like folding laundry or making a salad for dinner. But he still does so determinedly. A few years ago, I took Dad to Pompeii, Italy, as seeing the ruins of the ancient city was an item on his bucket list. While he used a cane throughout the trip, not once did he stumble or fall, despite Italy’s unending cobblestone streets, uneven sidewalks, and general lack of handicap accessibility. In the airport back in the States, he tripped and fell. He jovially got up and said something like, “I’ve been saving that.”
He has used a wheelchair off and on since I was in high school when he had a terrifying encounter with blood clots in his legs, directly caused by his disability. He’s grown more comfortable with the idea of using a wheelchair, especially if it will give him more independence in his current lack of mobility.
His health is a top concern for both him and my mom, and it’s changing the way they envision their future. While both of them are anxious, apprehensive, and downright depressed about the uncertainty of my father’s condition, I hope they can pull together and remember the immensely victorious life my dad has led up till this point.
He is an inspiration and a walking miracle. Literally. So my point in sharing his story with you? You can define what you are “capable” of, and even if life dealt you a poor hand, you have the opportunity to play it well.
So whoever said, “Write what you know”? Thanks. I happen to know a hero.