The earliest point of my life where I remember by social justice journey starting was at a fifth grade, father daughter dance. It was the first time I realized my father was disabled.
My friend’s father was doing a swing slide where he pulled her through his legs. She was a giggling mess and said you do it! You can tell my dad didn’t want to disappoint me and just said no, but I pushed the issue, resulting in
‘I can’t do that!’
Dad has (had) a fused hip joint in his left leg causing a limp and limited mobility. His physical limitations have never been a hinderance on me or my family’s life because it never was about what he couldn’t do, just that he had to do things differently. So I didn’t get to do a swing slide through my father’s legs at the dance. I have learned an incredible amount of what strength, tolerance, and patience it takes to live and be a person with a disability.
Now my dad has been like this for 30+ years, longer than my lifetime. He couldn’t do stairs without a railing, put on his shoes without a shoe horn, and a bunch of other things that people take for granted.
Last Wednesday, he underwent a total hip replacement surgery that the doctor declared was the worst he’s ever seen. He isn’t going to be running and jumping any time soon, but I am extremely happy for the range of mobility he will get to have once he is fully recovered.
It wasn’t until this week that I learned he put off the surgery for his family. Though I should have guessed that because he always put us first. What he also gave us without even trying was an understanding for people.
People come in all shapes, sizes, and different physical capabilities. Sometimes my dad and I don’t always agree on socio and political issues and he will ask, ‘how’d you get like this?’ From you, dad because you taught me this very valuable lesson, just because a person is a little different doesn’t mean they should be treated differently.