Jerry O’Dovero (disabled, quadriplegic)
I had my hair cut a few weeks ago by the lovely Angela. She is one of the sweetest women I know. I arrived a little early as I always do. No one will ever believe this, but I’m shy around women. That is until I start talking. Once I’m talking, I never stop. So I usually check in with Angela then go to the café next door and have a glass of beer. It’s not the glass of beer that jumps start me it’s the act of ordering it. I start a conversation with the two people working in the shop. 15 to 20 minutes later I’m next door with my mouth in high gear and I’m just along for the ride. But this time Angela invited to stay and meet her current client. A few years ago a stupid woman tried to sue the Wendy’s hamburger chain by putting a human finger in a cup of chili. She of course didn’t get away with it. Sometimes our court system works properly; actually I’d guess it works properly most of the time. Well the Lawyer that defender her was sitting in Angela’s chair. He was a nice guy and funny as well. I just sat back a listen to him tell his stories and laughed. Angela was cracking up as well. It was worth the price of admission. Its fun to listen to others tell their stories. That’s what life is about. Having experiences and sharing them with the world. Anyway, I was Angela’s last client of the day, so she offered to walk me out to my van. On the way I told her the point of today’s story.
I like being me!
I truly do. While I’d never wish a damaged spinal cord on anyone and I mean no one, I’m a happy, lucky man. This last Christmas was the first Christmas I spent alone in more than a dozen. But a few days after it, my buddy Kip stopped by on his way home from spending Christmas with his family in southern California. The first night here Kip makes the comment that we should spend New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas. The next day Kip and I are driving my motor home towards Vegas.
We left on Friday and spent the first night in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Bakersfield. Saturday it was bumper to bumper the rest of the way. I told Kip that a few of the people driving the others cars were idiots and there was going to be an accident. Sure enough, going down on the last hill before the Nevada state line there were three cars that were totaled on the side of the road. There were three cars filled with people that didn’t bring in the New Year. Getting somewhere a few minutes quicker isn’t worth your life.
When I drive to Vegas in the motor home I stay in the KOA next to the Circus Circus casino. It’s a great place to stay. I tell them I want the lowest price parking spot at the far end of the lot. I’m there to get exercise and burn calories, and I do! Some of the casinos carpets are so soft I don’t roll on them. It’s like pushing up hill or pushing in sand. But that’s half the fun.
I, as I truly like to do, drive when it’s my vehicle, which I’m usually in. It’s easier because of the wheelchair. I can transfer into my vehicles without help and there is a place for my wheelchair. Well, for the first 25 years I wouldn’t let friends help me. It wasn’t because I’m stubborn, but because ”I do” have a broken neck. I am paralyzed from the chest down. It took two years of working hard to learn how to relearn how to dress myself, do the transfers without falling and regaining strength and endurance. This is especially true when you live in Marquette Michigan. The winters there can start in October and last until May. As a matter of fact, it’s still snowing there right now (May 3). I was injured on May 13; oh the anniversary is coming soon. I never think about it unless something like this reminds me. May 13 1979 was a mother’s day. If mother’s day falls on the 13th and I see ads for it, I’ll be aware of the day, but otherwise I rarely do. As for Mother’s day, my mother and I haven’t talked in ten years. She quit calling me. We had a falling out ten years ago about money. I’ll talk about that in the months to come. Before that, she came to visit every year I lived here since I left Marquette. When she didn’t call to say she was going to visit the year after the falling out, I tried calling her. Her phone had been disconnected and no new number was given. I later found out her and my father moved to a new house. She never contacted me with her new phone number or address. I’ve since heard she’s now living in Texas. But that’s a story for another day.
My point being, I won’t let my family and friends help my unless I needed it because I wanted my family and friends to know what I could and couldn’t do. I’m paralyzed from the chest down. There’s a lot I cannot do and need help. A 4’’ curb stops me in my tracks. I need help on all stairs. In the 1980’s, just about every business in Marquette had a step or stairs. My close friends and family quickly realized when I needed help and helped, but left me to do the rest on my own. And the other reason was I wanted my family and friends to know I could make out to where ever they were going and back home so I’d be invited. It was probably a lot more important to me, I’m sure my family and friends didn’t care. I didn’t want them to feel like I was a burden and going to be more of a ‘’inconvenience’’ if I showed up. Now again, my family and friends, to this day, have always wanted me to be involved with them no matter where they were going. I hope it’s because I try my hardest to do as much as I can for myself. My advice to those that are disabled and reading this, you don’t have to climb Mount Everest to prove you can do everything, but don’t just sit there expecting everyone to do everything for you either. The hardest time is the first few months and years especially if you’re severally disabled. You’re family and friends that knew you prior to the disability are going to want to do more than they should. It’s only natural. Show your family and friends your abilities so they know when to help and when not too. To this day, people see me and offer to help me all the time. For 25 years I’d say NO If I absolutely didn’t need it. I’d even put my brakes on when people tried to push me. 10 years ago my body started wearing out AND I matured some. I realized I’m not the only disabled person out there and others are not as lucky as I am. Many do need help where I don’t AND my friends are the greatest, so I accept help now from time to time. I’ve been in a wheelchair for ‘’almost’’ 34 years. People feel better when they help others. But earn first!
We arrived in Vegas around 8 o’clock. I was exhausted from the driving. Traffic was two lanes of bumper to bumper. For short stretches it flowed nicely at 70 MPH, but most of the time it was brake lights to a stop then back to 60 or 70 MPH then back to a stop. At the KOA next to the Circus Circus Casino, I was ready for a nap. Kip gave me a wine cooler and relaxed as well. But then my brother Jay called. Kip knew Jay well. Jay worked for Kip and his construction company when he lived out here in San Jose with me several years back. That’s how Kip and I met through Jay and my other brother Paul who also lived with me for a spell and worked for Kip. 45 minutes later we’re drinking a jager bomb and heading out to the strip. We use mountain dew verses red bull.
I woke up the next day completely burnt out, exhausted and without my cell phone. We partied until 4 or 5 in the morning. And we never gambled one penny. You don’t have to gamble if you go to Vegas. I’m a partier and a talker so we went from place to place meeting people and having fun.
Most of our stay in Vegas was just that – wandering around seeing the sights and talking to people. I did play a little black jack and won some. I think I was up over $200 by the time we left Vegas from the little gambling we did. New Years Eve was the best night. The city blocked off a couple of miles of the strip and people from all over the world brought in the 2013 New Year’s Eve together. I talked to people from England, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Austria, Australia, Canada, uummm, South America and more. Oh Japan. I was a kid in a candy store. My buddy Kip just followed me from people to people and watched me meet people from all over the world. I finally gave him my camera and asked him to take pictures.
If you want to go somewhere for New Years and not sure where to go, go to Las Vegas.
Oh, I like being me!! and people seemed to like me as well. That helps!!