Handi-abled

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The man formerly known as M., who I now can legally call my husband, has found a silver lining in my post-surgery frailty. He’s positively giddy with the notion of my getting a handicapped parking placard for my car.

Turns out, per the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, the place that hacked out my bones and replaced them with man-made parts, I’m eligible for this little post-surgery perk until March of 2015. Wait, come to think of it, my bones were also manmade, assuming I am of the homo sapiens crew. Made by my human parents.

Anyway, I guess I’m not the woman I used to be.

Actually, October was quite the month in terms of my losing body parts. I also had my first tooth extraction — a wisdom tooth that had broken. Let the record show, up in until the year of 2014, I was in tact. Pristine. OK, not pristine but in possession of all of my components.

Ironically, the picture above was taken almost a year ago to the day — 11/13/2013. The subject matter was also largely painted by me. I took over from a coworker to obsessively ensure all of the space was filled in and the white wasn’t tinged blue or the blue white. We were volunteers painting the parking lot of a shelter.

And, one year later, I could park in that space. Almost. When I get my placard.

I’m not actually that interested in getting one. I am interested in parking however the hell I want. Of course. The best part is that meters become endless. The never-ending pasta bowl of staying however the hell long you want with the fist to the gods and meter maids who require quarters or checking your telephone app in time. I impetuously will tilt my head back and laugh at the freedom.

For the metered parking, I will rejoice. I may even do a surreptitious happy dance. It will be the dance internal, lest I don’t look needy enough, however.

The actual blue spaces, I may not ever touch those. I think karma dictates that I leave them alone for the people who cannot walk or are permanently up the handicap placard needing creek.

Plus, they scare me. For irrational feelings of superstitious dread, I fear them. The jinx potential is too high. You are inviting the universe for a good old smiting.

The rational fear is of do-gooding, well-meaning folk. Years ago I worked with an accountant with a bum heart named John. Since we were only in our 30s, if I remember right, he had received a heart transplant at a young age. His heart was now indeed many, many years his heart, so he had to have been young. (John’s prognosis, sadly, and it came true, was that he would not actually ever be old. But in the few years I knew him, he was using his borrowed time and even met the woman he would marry.)

He happily drove for any group getaway from the office. Not only did his meds keep him alive, they kept him from drinking, so he was the greatest of getaway drivers.

His meds also made him particularly hirsute. Thankfully, that’s not a side effect of a hip transplant.

The director of the office, John’s and my boss’s boss, not only enjoyed the occasional day drink (as well as the occasional day slap and tickle, but that’s another story), he also liked pizza from the source. The source to him was deep in the jungles of Boston’s North End.

If you are reading this from Massachusetts, no description of labyrinthian, narrow cobble-stoned streets are in order. For the rest, it’s roadwork straight out of the Revolutionary War without a lot of updates since the 1700s.

Parking is not to be had easily in the tiny and densely packed neighborhood. You could circle around Hanover and Prince and Union and other streets whose names I forget for days without a meter or legal space to be found. And woe be unto you, if you were to ever, ever, ever consider moving a lawn chair from a shoveled out spot in the dead of winter snow.

John’s service to pizza was incalculable, even by an accountant of his own caliber. We piled into his four-door, and he could smoothly go where no mere parking mortals could go.

But, it wasn’t all rainbow colored puppies living on liver-flavored lollipops.

John’s reason for the handicap plates was solidly internal. He had no outward sign of the transplant unless he walked around shirtless exposing railroad tracked scars all over his chest.

Without cane, crutches, chair, walker, a begging bowl or any of the acoutrement that signal “handicap,” he was a hairy dude stepping out of a well-parked sedan. More than once he was accosted on the street and assumed to be a well-bodied person illicitly borrowing their parents or grandparents or other unfortunate person’s car.

I think people have a clear mental picture of what handicapped is supposed to look like. They want their gimps gimpy, their limpers limpy, someone they can look at and create a sad narrative.

An accountant running errands before work, heart transplant or no, is too normal. He was shaken one morning by a presumably well-intentioned woman, and an accusation that escalated into a shouting match.

How much are you required to say, I wonder.

I think months from now, if I dangle the placard above my dashboard through March, I’ll find out. I can see myself in the streets of San Francisco, and it may not end well. I still have enough of Boston in me to imagine my future self telling someone to go fuck themselves, while debating whether or not to let them know my hip is not my own.

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