Living and laughing with a disability - cerebral palsy; ordinary life, extraordinary circumstances.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Bill and I

I wrote about going to Bill Porter's funeral yesterday.  I didn't want to clutter my tribute to Bill yesterday, but what I went through getting from my van into the church made me think "what would Bill do?"

I found the disabled parking spaces at St. Henry's Catholic church in Gresham.  I pulled my walker out of the van.  There were some doors near where I parked, but the looked like back doors, private entrances.  They did not look like entrances to the church.

I walked around to the front of the church.  It was a good distance for me, but if Bill could walk ten miles a day, I could handle this.  There might be a handicapped entrance at the back of the church that just was not obvious to me.

When I made it to the front of the church, I found three stairs to go up on the sidewalk leading to the church entrance.  I realized that I could walk a greater distance to avoid the stairs, but I was getting tired, and the service was about to begin.

I was just going to fold my walker and drag it up the stairs.  A bit crazy, I know, but like Bill and most other disabled people out spend a lot of your life figuring out ways to do things that nobody else thinks you can do.

Just as I was about to do my crazy deed, a very kind woman at the top of the steps saw what I was about to do and she offered to help.  I thought about being bullheaded and telling the woman, "No thanks.  I can do this."

Instead, I figured the woman was there to honor Bill, a guy with disabilities.  Helping me, a guy with disabilities, was probably something she would like to do.   She carried my walker up the stairs.  I used the handrail to get myself up the stairs.  I thanked the lady as we made our way into the church.  She held the door for me.

During the service, it was mentioned how Bill did not like to ask for help.  Something we had in common.

Shelly Brady, whose family adopted Bill after his mother passed, thanked the many people for the help they gave his house, getting him to appointments, etc...

It made me smile.   No wanting to ask for help, but knowing when to accept it.

Bill and I had in common.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Bill Porter, American hero, rest in peace

I went to Bill Porter’s funeral on Friday to pay my respects to a truly great American hero.  Bill passed away on December 3.   He was the Portland door-to-door salesman with cerebral palsy who never let his disability be used as an excuse.  

Tom Hallman Jr., who first brought Bill's story to us in 1995 wrote a fine obituary on Bill.

Like Bill, I was born with cerebral palsy.  His cp was similar to mine, but I think Bill's speech was more affected than mine, as also were the involuntary motions in the rest of his body worse than mine.  

Bill's mom told him he could accomplish whatever he set his mind to do.  My  mom and dad, my whole family, brought me up to believe I could achieve any goal I set my mind to do.

At his service a story was told of how he went to the employment agency every day for months only to be told that he should stay home, that they had no job for him.  Bill's father was a salesman.  The only advice Bill could remember from his dad was "Get a job!"

After many turn-downs, his tenacious never-give-up spirit spirit got him a job with the JR Watkins Company, with the toughest door-to-door route in Portland hilliest area.

Bill walked ten miles a day, going door to door, selling household products.  He was a tenacious salesman, never taking “no” for a final answer.  A “no” today might be a “yes” the next week, or the week after, or the week after get the idea.

I went to Oregon State.  My favorite job to date is the one I had as a student in college, as a copyeditor on OSU’s Daily Barometer, with a weekly humor column titled “Witticisms.”

After college I had a brief stint as an assistant editor with World Christian Magazine, but my support ran low and the magazine went under.  I moved home and had to start looking for a job.

No one told me to stay home and collect a check as Bill was told, but that message was getting through to me with the rejection I was getting.  I sent lots of resumes with no response.  I worked with Vocational Rehabilitation.  

Unlike Bill who spent his life getting around on his feet, I rode a three-wheeled bike through college.  After college, I was able to get my driver’s license with the help of Voc Rehab.

One day I volunteered to make a spreadsheet to track volunteer hours for the volunteer coordinator in the Hillsboro Department of Human Services office.  That led to a desk job with Child Welfare.  That was 24 years ago.  Many different desks, but still with Child Welfare.

Less than a year after starting my job, I was married to Jodie.  She has cerebral palsy too.  In 1995 we had a son.

When I compare my life to Bill’s life, my life seems really soft.  Usually, though, I am not comparing my life to Bill’s.  

I have a theory that as part of the human condition, we all, at times, wish we had another person’s life, but if we had that person’s life, we would rather have our own life back.

From what I have read and heard about Bill’s life, he was not one to sit still long enough to worry about what could have been if his life had been different.  For more than 45 years he did door-to-door sales.  Six days a week, with Saturday being his day to call back on customers who weren't home when he went through earlier in the week.

On Sundays, Bill was in church.  Rev. Zach told us at Bill’s service how Bill always sat in the same pew, and how he always walked up front for communion, even though it was a struggle for him.

There were three beautiful bouquets in front of the sanctuary to honor Bill.  One of the bouquets was from the Watkins Company.  Another bouquet was from the Brady family, the family who adopted Bill as their own after his mother did.  The Brady family was up front singing beautifully together for the service.  Kathy Brady shared wonderful insights into Bill’s life.

A third bouquet was from an American who is living in Shanghai, calling Bill a “great American hero.”  Bill really was.  I love the idea of naming the new light rail bridge across the Willamette the “Bill Porter Bridge”.  Bill deserves to be honored and remembered.

Bill Porter was a great American.

Rest in peace Bill.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The key won't turn!

Jodie had her office manager's meeting yesterday.  My manager attends the same meeting.  I'm allowed the flexibility of transporting Jodie from her meetings to her office with our van.

I picked Jodie up about 12:30.  We drove to Wendy's in Gresham.  We got up to the drive-up menu to order.  I turned off our van.  Our diesel van is so loud that the order takers can't hear us over our loud engine.

After we gave our order, I tried to turn the key to turn the van back on.  It would not turn!

Jodie tried to turn the key.  The world is Troyproof you know.  What does not work for me does work for just about everyone else.   Also, I can break stuff in ways no one else can. You think I kid.  Whatever!!

Well, the key would not turn for Jodie.  Panic was setting.

Disabled couple in their Big A** van blocking Wendy's drive-up menu.

I kept jiggle the steering wheel, and the key.  I  was praying.  In out last van I broke the key off in the ignition...that was an expensive fix.

The key did turn.  The van started.  We went to park to eat.  The key would not turn to turn the van off.  We decided to go home. We parked in our drive way.  Still, the key would not turn.  We ate our lunch with the van running.

We called the shop.  They did not know what would cause the key not to turn, but hey, they never figured out why the van's windshield wiper broke off a few months ago either.  They scratched their heads and told me to come into the shop.

With the interlock system on the van, our lift does not work when the van is running.  I went in the house and got Jodie's crutches so she could walk into the house.

I pulled the van into the shop's garage.  I was praying it would not cost much.  Did not know which card to put this one on.  ;)

I got my walker out, told the guys "It  won't turn off," and headed to the waiting room.  The 'or I'll eat my hat!' guy was in his office.  "Hi, my friend!" he said.

In short tine, one of the shop guys came and told me the the key was bent, which it why it was not working.   The hammered it straight, but told me to start using another key.  No charge...such a nice shop.

I texted Jodie and headed home.  When I opened the garage, Eric came running out.

"Dad, how did you bend a key?!"

I reminded him I'm the same guy who rebroke his arm, bending the titanium plate that had been holding it together.

Troyproof...ya know...