When I went off to college, many people thought I was a bit ambitious when, having grown up with Cerebral Palsy, I was sure that the only way to guarantee my success was to move 2000 miles away from home to the University of Arizona in Tucson. Yet it was no more than five minutes after arriving on campus that whatever trepidation I had felt ceased to exist. The friends that I met there quickly became the closest friends I’ve ever had and they were always there when I needed them. Although I had regularly scheduled help that came a couple times a day to help me with basic stuff like going to bed and getting up, I relied on many of my friends for pretty much everything else.
There was a certain point in my college career where it was clear that I had come to meet the basic expectations that everyone had for me, i.e. could manage independent living; had a reasonably descent social life; and most importantly was on a pretty safe track to becoming gainfully employed, but nothing could have prepared anyone for what happened next.
Regardless of whether or not society likes to admit it, the vast majority holds lower expectations for those of us in wheelchairs or who are otherwise disabled. Often, it is considered a great success if one is living independently and receiving SSI and has some level of involvement in his or her community. Things such as marriage, home ownership, a job and children for those with disabilities are most often thought of as the exception than the norm. Here in lies the choice, one can either accept societies assumptions as truth or find his or her own way. I chose not to be limited by other’s expectations.
When I met my wife the summer of 2003, I had been living under the silent assumption that no reasonably sensible woman would willingly choose to spend the rest of her life with a disabled man. I was also determined that this was hogwash. And, while I had always hoped this intellectually, when I first met Megan I knew I was right. We met at a week long martial arts training seminar and had the opportunity to work together several times during the week. We learned that we were both writers and both came form similar family situations. I knew from the first that she was the one and there was no way I would let her go.
It took her a bit longer for various reasons, but I was already set in my pursuit before the week was up. I was determined to have her phone number and e-mail, and as she was living a thousand miles away in Alabama at the time, I rushed right home and e-mailed her a few of my favorite poems. It did not take long for this innocent exchange of writing to become a passionate letter exchange between two lovers. After six months of letter writing and outrageously high phone bills, she came back to visit me in Arizona. By that time we both knew that we were made for each other, and also by that point, a ring had already been purchased.
Though I did not propose to her that weekend, I did two weeks later on her second visit over Thanksgiving. When we called our parents to inform them the following morning, we were met with complete and utter shock. Her father, a psychotherapist who is supposedly adept at communication and prides himself on being an open-minded individual, did not speak to her for over a week. Moreover, he refused to tell his wife and Megan’s half brother until much later. My parents were also equally resistant. While I do believe my dad was genuinely happy for me, my mother’s uninterrupted silence reflected a poor attempt at her Southern upbringing to keep her opinions to herself. And at the other end of the spectrum, my stepmother was outrageously opposed to any union what so ever. Her grounds, money. “But he’ll lose his benefits. He can’t marry” became her mantra for the whole of the next year. God forbid I may be able to work for a living!
There was no question in my mind; there was nothing to stand in the way of our love, even that loss financial or physical support that could deter us from getting married. I love Megan, and nothing was about to get in my way of becoming her husband and providing for our family.
The day after my last final in college, my dad and I packed my apartment in Tucson and we set forth in an over burdened van to Tuscaloosa, Alabama. We arrived two days alter, and I was finally with my love, and we were happy. However, Alabama was not the place for us. The town in which we lived was the least accessible I had been in my life. There was no way for me to get around and much less find a job and provide for our family. As soon as possible, we were bound and determined to move to a better location. We began to research this within a month of my arrival. And a year later, after an incredible and soul turning wedding ceremony, we were set to move.
Our wedding was powerful. As I follow the priest down the aisle, being pushed my brother and another groomsman, I was bursting with excitement. When we got up to the altar, my groomsman assisted me into my walker, and I stood straight as an arrow awaiting my bride. As she entered the chapel, our eyes caught, and an explosion of joy erupted within me producing so much excitement that my legs trembled. As we spoke our vows, poems that we had both written, for the happiest days of our life, I spoke in a whisper, as I watch tears run down her face. I stood for the whole ceremony, which ran over an hour in length. Then I proceeded to walk arm in arm with my wife down the aisle and out the door. No one but my wife and few close friends had ever seen me walk before, nor did they know that I had been working to do so. The joy and amazement that we saw in family and friends was overwhelming and only contributed to the incredible love and joy of that day.
Written by Barton Cutter
You can contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org