“Dancing Gabe” Langlois, cheering for the home team, playing air guitar, and dancing up a storm for the crowd between plays. It’s difficult to imagine how, as a child he never liked noise and would put his hands over his ears whenever he heard any noise.
People who do disability well, increase our creative potential because their achievements humble us in ways that challenge our potential. How do we experience life to the fullest? Dancing Gabe has a story about a difficult childhood that was healed by a special teacher. It’s exciting because healing and joy are awesome and hard won. To be adored by the city of Winnipeg, because you are joyous is remarkable.
My stepmother had both of her legs amputated when I was a teenager. Her feet were deformed from polio as a child, and she was unable to feel her injury when she stepped on glass, which turned into gangrene. Although she learned to walk on plastic legs, they often left bedsores on her stumps and she ran high fevers a few days every month. It didn’t slow her down. She ran an antique store and collected antique dolls. Every month she sold furniture at the Atlanta Antique Flea Market and most summers she attended the Antique Doll Convention in Michigan. She liked to read love stories and write poetry.
She had always hobbled along, but suddenly everything was out of her reach. She still managed to cook, clean, shop and care for the family; at home, she walked on her knees when she wasn’t in her wheelchair. She expected a lot from her children, who helped her with the antiques, but they were all successful, and she has three grandchildren.
My son was two when he noticed she didn’t have any legs. He grabbed her pants leg and then tried to look inside.
“Grandma, where are your legs?”
“The monsters ate them. I didn’t wear my shoes when I went to the mailbox and the monsters jumped out and ate my feet.”
My son slept with his socks on after that.
Frances never looked like she was trying hard or bothered by the many obstacles she faced. She was quiet about her problems and reasonable about her expectations of others. If she were disappointed or angry, you would never know. Upsetting her with unkind words was impossible.
I think of her as a compass on a long voyage. Even if you are off-course, there is a way to get right.