a blog about raising a daughter with cerebral palsy and learning unexpected lessons along the way

Thursday, November 5, 2015

To The Lady Who Almost Ruined My Day

What a gorgeous morning I was having with my girls. The last errand of our morning took us to the grocery store for a few house staples. Shopping with my tiny circus isn't always easy but at this point in my career, I've got it down to a science. Thankfully, the kind lady at check-out was so kind and patient with my girls who both wanted to help bag our groceries. With lots of little extra fingers and flimsy, awkwardly filled bags later, we got the job done. Another kind worker momentarily halted her responsibilities as manager on duty to answer my oldest daughter's unending questions "what's that?" and "need help?" and even offered her the chance to wear her headset and operate the in-store paging system. Followed by all that kindness came another worker who invited each of my girls to pick out any one Halloween balloon from the bin of several that were leftover from the Halloween holiday. Generous and good people literally stepped in front of us all morning. It was a wonderful feeling.

Then came you.

My girls and I had made it out of the store and had made our way back to the car. My oldest was already safely fastened inside. I was wedged between my car and shopping cart while safely fastening my youngest into her seat before loading our groceries. I was doing my best to work quickly as busy grocery store parking lots are not my thing but more importantly, the weather was begging for us to get home and savor the day outdoors. Then with the last snap of my daughter's seatbelt, I heard you.

I heard you from behind me. You, the woman who obviously made an incorrect assumption as you walked completely past me and my car, and you who huffed in a passive-aggressive manner from over your shoulder so that I couldn't even see your face, "You're parked in a handicapped spot and you're not even handicapped!"

Admittedly, I felt instant shock and anger.

Allow me to say that you were way out of line to speak to me in such a manner but because I'm generally a really nice person, I'll throw you a bone here. Your assumption wasn't entirely incorrect because true, I am not handicapped. My beautiful 8 year old daughter is.


Those four words and the tone in which I used them were all that I could throw back at you in the moment. And for that, you are lucky.

So for you, the one who felt the need to monitor handicap parking spaces this day, I offer some bits of valuable information so that you can better fulfill your duties in the future.

For starters, handicap placards are not available to just anyone. Getting a placard is a bit more involved that simply raising your hand and begging me, me, me. An occupant of the car applying for a handicap placard must have a medical need or physical disability, either temporary or permanent, and a doctor must validate the medical need to obtain the placard as part of the application process. Notice I said occupant. To clarify, this means the driver OR the passenger is handicapped. In the case of my family, this pertains to our oldest daughter, the passenger, who has a permanent disability. Permanent means forever. She will forever live with a palsied body and the lasting effects this causes to her. So you were right. I am not handicapped. A deeply loved occupant of my car is.

Secondly, for every visible disability there is a disability that is invisible. It's that simple. You did not see my handicapped daughter as you waltzed by for she was already inside the car. You see, I have to put her in first, typically before I put my 4 year old in the car, as it is my 8 year old who lacks the capacity necessary to be fully aware of parking lot dangers and can often run away from me which creates for a very scary situation. In addition, she has a tendency to trip and sometimes fall. Think of all the things that can happen to a kid with delayed protective reflexes who stumbles and falls in a busy parking lot. Hence just two of the reasons I need to park as close as possible to a storefront as I can. And because you didn't see her you missed the orthotics that hug her feet, the glasses that rest on her beautiful face in front of slightly crooked hazel eyes, her palsied right side, and you certainly didn't get the blessing of speaking with her or you would have noted quite quickly that she is significantly delayed in speech and cognitive development. Some of her challenges are visible while some of them are not. She is the most amazing package of schizencephaly, cerebral palsy, ADHD, OCD, apraxia, and epilepsy and I regret that you didn't even see her. Furthermore, I'm so very sorry that you didn't meet her. She would have indeed turned your foul attitude around on this particular day and I'm certain she would have reached for your hand. She's cool like that.

And here's something else for you. Stay in your own lane and take care of you. Please. But if you have a problem or concern with someone then by all means, please act like the adult you are and bring it to the table in a respectable manner. Huffing over shoulders doesn't fly with me. In other words, this means eye to eye contact and a pleasant tone of voice should be in order as most of us adults know it's often more about the delivery of your words, and less about the words themselves.

And last but not least, every single one of us has at least one chapter of hardship, struggle, and imperfection written within our life story. Our stories are unknown and hidden deep from the strangers and passerby's around us so why would we dare to judge others? I've chosen to not judge you. You too have a story and I sensed it that day you expressed your disgust with me and my "improper" parking which is why even through my tears of anger over your action toward me, I still prayed for you on my way home from the grocery. Have your days turned around since then?

This moment between us is behind me and I'm over it. Your comment will not stop me from utilizing the blue plastic placard that resides in the front window of my car whenever I feel the safety and well being of my daughter requires it. And because this was the first, but likely not the last time that someone will feel the need to express their words of sentiment within earshot of my family, I will be better prepared to respond when that time comes because fortunately and unfortunately my path crossed with yours on that day you almost, but not quite ruined.

"My daughter is handicapped. Please, let me introduce you to her. She's pretty awesome."