It started on the basketball court with a whisper – not quietly enough – from two young men, probably 17: “You wanna play the old men?”
As my buddy and I shot around I wondered when I became one of the “old men.”
I’m 38 and I still feel young, though apparently I no longer look it, at least to teenagers, and my left leg was slightly sore from running that morning.
“Let’s do it,” my buddy and I simultaneously issued our elderly response.
The games worked us, running the ball and chasing the younger men around, yet we won both times, I believe inspiring another comment from two other teenage men who laughed — not at us — as we worked the pair over.
It felt good, at least inside, as my left leg screamed at me.
As I went up for a shot earlier, the upper half of my leg, just below the knee cap, seemed to separate from my lower leg, issuing a sort of suction-cup sound and a slight pop.
I’ve been using crutches since and am waiting on MRI results, which may confirm I need surgery to repair a torn meniscus.
So, apparently, it is possible for “old men” to beat younger men. They just have to tear their meniscus.
Navigating around locally hasn’t been easy and it brought to mind a woman I encountered a few months back at a meeting I was covering. She came to the meeting in an electric wheelchair and when those running the show asked for input about the issues they covered, she spoke about handicap accessibility.
They thanked her, and then attempted to move on, when she passionately renewed her pleas and relayed how difficult it was to get around and even attend such a meeting when there isn’t adequate handicap accessibility. That was frustrating for a disabled individual who simply wants to participate too but is nearly unable because she can hardly reach the venue.
It was clear those running the meeting were growing frustrated, and while they let her have her say, they were ready to move on and tackle what they considered to be the real issues of the meeting.
But that was the real issue in that moment and desperately needed to be addressed.
Imagine, living with a disability that makes it significantly more difficult for one to get around and navigate throughout the day. Depending on the venue the individual is navigating, that might become impossible.
Perhaps that individual simply wants to attend the book club, the political meeting, shop at the local clothing store or eat at the diner, except the individual is stuck waiting at the door or at the bottom of the stairs.
My son is disabled, but he is still young and small, so I carry him around often and it is more difficult to experience such difficulties, though I think about them and wonder what it will be like for him as he grows.
Being restricted to crutches lately I have experienced a slight taste of being disabled. I am in no means permanently disabled and do not want to imply that my plight is the same as that of a handicapped individual, but I have better been able to understand and appreciate the frustration.
Navigating some stores, with narrow aisles, is frustrating and at times impossible on crutches and with a leg brace. I just needed a pair of loose shorts that would fit easily around my leg brace.
I was on a bus, and found myself unable to navigate the narrow aisle with my crutches. All I wanted was to sit down as I was bumped and stumbled in the aisle, sending shooting pain up and down my leg.
I can think of other examples, but long story short, I was frustrated and angry at times attempting to carry out tasks so simple for the able-bodied who, at times, clearly expressed their own frustration with having to wait for and navigate around me as they easily raced to their destinations.
The able-bodied were frustrated at times if I delayed them sitting down at the restaurant on time, purchasing their clothes, attending their meeting.
Again, my temporary disability is nothing compared to so many of the permanent and significant disabilities out there.
But it did make it clear to me that the frustration and anger of the disabled at the lack of handicap accessibility at places and the disregard for their plight by some is warranted.
Do we really live in a society where it is still all right for places that do not consider their needs? Is it adequate to only consider and spend money to accommodate the able-bodied?
No, it is not, and correcting this should be a priority until everywhere is just as convenient and welcoming to the handicap as it is for individuals privileged with their ability.
Reach Editor Stephen Bartlett at firstname.lastname@example.org.