THEY WERE ALL MY FRIENDS

by Raymond J.Aguilera

.

Read tributes to Chris Hewitt by Angie McLachlan, Mark Moody, and Michael Perreault.

"They were all my friends and they died."

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 cry.

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 environment—prison—after 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 J.Aguilera

.

 

Don't wait.
Let us know what you think of this BENT feature.

 

BENT: A Journal of CripGay Voices/September 2004