Breath & Shadow

A Journal of Disability Culture and Literature

Summer 2015

Volume 12 Issue 3



I Remember

By Debbie Johnson

I remember jumping rope, including double jumps and 'hot peppers' at recess when I was in elementary school. I can still feel the exhilaration of jumping the longest or the fastest, and the occasional embarrassment at tripping over my own little feet.

I remember running track when I was in junior high. I was never fast, but I was very persistent. I still recall the feeling of satisfaction the first afternoon I ran five miles.

I remember square dancing in the high school gym. There were dances held there with the lights turned down after the chilly autumn football games. I remember the anticipation while waiting for someone to ask me to dance, and the closeness of our feet during our awkward adolescent years. We would try so hard not to kick each other as we moved our feet, but it would almost always happen.

I remember my first camping and hiking trip. There was a feeling of conquest at climbing down and back up the riverbank. Many of our family vacations when my son was young were camping and hiking trips. We would do a little fishing, and a lot of fishing him out of the water when he accidentally, or not so accidentally, fell in the lake. We always sought out shallow places to fish due to his propensity for becoming aquatic.

I remember hearing the leaves crunch under my feet in the fall, and feeling the uneven ground of the trails when I stopped at the park for a peaceful walk with nature on my way home from work.

I remember the sand between my toes the first time I walked by the ocean, and how the little shells poked the soles of my feet. There was such a squishy feel to the sand as the waves came in, wetting the beach along my path.

I remember when my son was six and I took him roller skating for the first time. I was twenty-four. We fell down so many times during the first six months. Then, we seemed to grow 'skating legs'. We both joined roller hockey teams, and both won national championship medals. The best skating, though, was gliding gracefully and effortlessly around the oval skating backwards doing dance steps. As I skated longer and longer, my body could feel the thrill of flowing endorphins. We would often skate until midnight and be back when the rink opened the next morning. This went on for ten years until the only local rink closed when the owners, well into their seventies, retired.

I remember when I could walk effortlessly, something I never thought to appreciate. My small feet and slender ankles looked great in high heels. There was the occasional blister from wearing such shoes, but it seemed worth it.

I remember when everything suddenly changed. I woke up in the hospital and was told I had shattered my thigh bone. Two years and twelve surgeries later, my left leg was amputated.

I remember learning that I would never walk again. I spent months struggling with this fact, angry and bitter. I felt broken, both mentally and physically. As I worked my way through the stages of grief, these feelings began to resolve.

I remember when I finally quit fighting, accepting this was God's plan for me. I realized things would never be the same again, but I was still capable of living a full and satisfying life.

I remember figuring out that my role in life was to advocate for those with disabilities, and that I could make a difference in the lives of others. When I finished my first advocacy paper, I had a feeling of intense satisfaction.

I remember many good times from the past. Now, instead of gliding around the skating rink, I glide on paper with pen. Rather than hitting the hockey puck, I tap the keys on my keyboard. Now unable to walk while crunching leaves, I crumple paper as I write draft after draft, working toward a completed poem or short story. Instead of dancing in the gymnasium, I strive to make my words dance on the page. I am climbing the walls of stigma and discrimination rather than a riverbank. Today, I am happy as I create the memories of my future.

Debbie Johnson was disabled in a car/semi accident in 2004. She writes as both therapy and to advocate for the disabled. She has written two books, “The Disability Experience” and “The Disability Experience II”. Her website, blog, and guest blog can be found at www.thedisabilityexperience.vpweb.com. She is currently completing a book for young children to educate them and increase acceptance of the disabled. Called “Debbie’s Friends”, it will be released soon with plans to distribute it to schools, libraries and churches in copy-ready form free of charge. In addition, she is compiling an anthology of poetry written by the disabled about their disabilities.

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