Childhood From a Chair

If I asked a stranger to picture someone labeled as disabled and describe them I would typically receive a response along the lines of “Maybe slightly deformed or missing a body part, probably in a chair, older, maybe gray hair,” and so on. My image is of bright blue eyes, a toothy smile with a few baby teeth, scrawny, a humorous, light expression, and yes, a wheelchair. His name is Brantley, he’s 11 and disabled. He’s never had the chance to play sports with the other boys or chase the girls on the playground. He has severe and consistently worsening nerve damage. He’s dying, and I have to watch him go from leg braces to walker to chair, I have to watch that child grow up already knowing what it’s like to look at death. Brantley doesn’t seem to care much anymore, he’s light hearted and humorous. Everything is a comedy and everyone a joke. Yesterday, he was so enthusiastic. He was using the rails to support himself and didn’t fall. He looked at me when I helped him back to his chair and said”I’m getting better! I can almost walk now!” How do you explain to a child that he’s not and never will get better? How do you tell an eleven year old he will never walk? How do you knowingly shoot the last hope in a kid’s eye down? How do you put out the light in your baby brother’s eye, how do you condemn him to know reality? I couldn’t.

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