One of the places Mr. Man and I frequent is located in a quaint little town just down the road from our domicile. The last couple of times I've been there I noticed a dude with a guitar sitting outside in the town square strumming. The first time I noticed him playing, I thought he was really drunk because the notes he was playing were all kinds of messed up. His "singing" sounded like the ramblings of a really drunk guy. I shrugged it off and went about my way.
The next time I saw him in the same spot doing the same thing I decided to walk a little slower and check him out. That's when I noticed his walker parked beside the bench where he sat. I also noticed that he wasn't strumming the guitar with his fingers. He was sort of banging them with his fist. And his singing wasn't drunk rambling, it was a guttural attempt at speech. You see, this dude had cerebral palsy.
The third time I saw him, we were both in a bar listening to music. He was at the bar and was attempting to dole out money to the waitress but wasn't having much luck. I stopped and offered to help him and he accepted (I think). I invited him to join me and my friends at a table and he accepted. Introductions were made and I think that he was pleased to have new friends to sit with. Because of his physical limitations, he had to drink his beer through a straw in an over sized glass. Maybe he had already had a few - maybe he hadn't, all I know is that he seemed to be struggling so I helped him out. His movements were so spastic it nearly broke my heart.
During the course of the evening, everyone at the table helped him and even included him in our rounds of beer. The conversation was one sided for the most part because he couldn't enunciate words but we managed. At one point I realized that he was able to do more than I had previously thought and I called him on it. He gave a sly grin. I started kidding him that he was a scam artist and that I bet he was faking the whole disability thing so he could pick up cute girls like me and get free beer. He was roaring with laughter and the twinkle in his eyes couldn't be ignored. I think the other people at our table were horrified that I was talking to him that way but they couldn't hear our entire "conversation" so they didn't know that the jig was up.
I used to work in a hospital physical therapy department so I'm used to people in all stages of disability. I also have a personal connection to cerebral palsy because my cousin has it so it doesn't make me uncomfortable. I know that people with this malady are usually very sharp in the mind. It's their poor bodies that don't function like they want them to. They jerk their limbs, drool, have trouble controlling their heads, have trouble speaking and so on and so on and so on. It's a shame that they intimidate some "regular" people because they have the same hopes and dreams and likes and dislikes just like all of us.
Pee Wee managed to stumble all the way through the town square to the bar to hear good music. He enjoyed a beer and some good jokes - or at least he didn't complain about mine. Hey, I had a captive audience (wink wink, nudge nudge). My 12 year old happened to be with me when this all took place and later she asked me why I asked him to sit with us. I asked her if she'd rather go to hear good music with friends or all alone. She agreed that sharing good times with friends makes the good time even better. She asked me if I was nervous because he couldn't talk. I told her that I wasn't because there are more ways than one to communicate. She asked me if I was glad Pee Wee came to sit with us and I told her that I really, really was. I like to think that I've added another new friend to my list.
If you're out and about and you encounter someone who is way, way different than you - someone who has disabilities that make you uncomfortable just remember that inside that broken body there is a person. And even if that person can't communicate in a way that you can clearly understand, you can still enjoy something together and have yourselves a good chuckle. I'm so glad I introduced myself to Pee Wee. I think he's glad he met me, too. He could have run away from me but he chose to stay. Maybe it's because I told him that he was faking it to get hot chicks and that he was full of shit. I didn't pity him. I treated him just like I would treat any of my "normal" friends.