Man in motion
When I was a kid, I loved that song “St. Elmo’s Fire” by John Parr. Not only did it have a great rhythm to it, but I always loved it when Parr sang “Gonna be your man in motion/All I need is a pair of wheels.” Eventhough I was very young (about 5 probably) these lyrics put the image in my mind of being the hero to a girl, any girl I had a schoolyard crush on. I had no idea that the song, and that line in particular, was written in honor of Rick Hansen, a Paralympian, now a spinal chord injuries activist. But it got me thinking about the idea of a man in a wheelchair being more than just a man in a wheelchair. Then, a few years later, someone, I forget who, gave me a comic book called “Man in Motion” where the superhero was disabled. His Batmobile was a wheelchair! Could this be???
I didn’t know that one day the man who played Superman, Christopher Reeve would have his physical abilities taken away in an accident. I had not been a fan of Superman (I always read Batman comics) so the accident didn’t touch me in the same way it did for others. Don’t get me wrong, I have never been able to walk so whenever I hear about someone who has walked all their lives losing that ability, it hurts me to think of it, and I can’t imagine what it would feel like inside. But I just didn’t make the same emotional association with him as people who had watched him and loved him on-screen. While Reeves became a real hero to millions after his accident, I still didn’t understand why. What had changed? He was the same guy. I did not know much about his contributions to “disabled issues” at the time. I just figured that there were people who always were active for disabled rights who deserved kudos. That was my mindset. I think I just had the attitude that I wanted to believe in myself, and not put all my hopes on a disabled Idol.
I will never ever forget the night he died. I had lost my job months before and was desperately trying to regain my confidence, and make a financial contribution to my then 5-month old marriage. I wanted to be my wife’s Man in Motion, her knight, all that. I was up that night on the Internet looking through job postings, flipping through the Yellow Pages. A point came where I just couldnt handle it anymore. It was well-past midnight and I just chucked the phone book down, and pounded my fist and swore a bit but eventually turned on the TV. When I went to bed after hearing the news, my wife woke up hearing me noisily come into the room. She knows when something is wrong. When she asked me, I began to rant about not finding a job. “And to top it off,” I said “Christopher Reeve is dead.” I had never really shared with her how I felt about Christopher Reeve but she must have known I felt something deep within me. She just put her arms around me, saying “It’s okay if you feel like crying.” I already was, but at the same time I was in disbelief that I was. It was around that time that I had this notion floating around in my head that heroes did not exist; that it was all in the mind. Then I decided if there were heroes, you don’t find them in movies, and I was right. I found out there is such a thing as a hero which is much more powerful than I had ever imagined.