ALL MY FRIENDS
Read tributes to Chris Hewitt by Angie
McLachlan, Mark Moody,
and Michael Perreault.
"They were all my friends and
So sang Jim Caroll.
This morning I heard that Chris
Hewitt, a friend, poet and fellow Queer Crip died of pneumonia
in San Francisco General Hospital. Chris isn't the first disabled
friend of mine to die. It started in the seventh grade, with Kerry.
I don't talk about her much, but just typing this is making me
Kerry and I were
the first disabled kids in our school district to be mainstreamed.
Before us, disabled kids were automatically put into special ed
classes, secreted away from the rest of the students (and teachers).
But not us. Laws guaranteeing our right to an equal and integrated
public education had come into effect only a few years earlier,
and we were the first to test them.
It wasn't an easy
road for either of us. The kids were fine, it was the adults who
were the assholes. Every year, our parents would have to fight with
the pig-headed principal, who felt that maybe we might do better
in "a special environment." Never mind the fact that Kerry and I
were smarter than most of our classmates and did so well on assessment
tests that our scores were, literally, off the chart.
(Years later, that
principal found his own very special environmentprisonafter
he was found guilty of embezzling from the school district.)
In the seventh grade
Kerry died. Complications from Muscular Dystrophy had put her in
the hospital and one day her tiny body just quit fighting. I miss
her. I think about her a lot. April 9th is her birthday, and every
year I think about how, from April 9th until my birthday on November
13th, she'd pull rank on me, since she was older.
Kerry wasn't the
only one of my friends to leave. Mike H., RC, Dave, Mark, and now
Chris. All are gone, along with countless other fellow crips that
I have met at one time or another. I don't believe in Heaven, but
if I did, I tell you what, Heaven is paved smooth, and there are
ramps up to all the doorways.
I'm one of the lucky
ones. My disability will never get any better, but it won't kill
me, either (unless I manage to trip into the path of an oncoming
car while crossing the street). Even on my shittiest day, I think
of that, and I'm thankful. I remember the friends and acquaintances
that have come and gone before me, and it reminds me to be thankful
for what I have. And to be proud of what I am.
© 2004 Raymond
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