Thursday, July 19, 2012

Moody: Beginnings

LunchA little over a year ago my friend, Michael, died. A few years before that he was in an accident that left him paralyzed from the mid chest down with only gross motor movement in his arms and hands. He required a health care aid 24 hours a day and used a motorized wheelchair with modified controls to enable him to move around on his own.

For about the last five years of his life (don't stop me if you've heard this before) we went to the movies together on Fridays. During that time I learned a lot about being disabled in New York City. Not as much as Michael learned, to be sure, but a lot more than I knew before. I wanted to write about it here and I thought about it but ultimately wasn't able to draw clear enough lines for myself between his story and my story to tell.

He's stopped telling his story, though.

So I think I can tell my story now and not feel bad about it in any way. I think it needs to get out here. Five years of nearly weekly visits won't fit into one post so it'll be an occasional series. I could go with non-fiction parody titles (Michael & Me, Fridays With Michael) but I'll refrain. When I used to work for him ages and ages ago we just called him by his last name, Moody, because it really (really) fit. So I'll go with that.

UntitledI'd like to kick off today with just a short uplifting story from the first movie date we were actually able to keep, about two years after Michael was paralyzed. I don't remember what we saw but we were joined by Michael's friend, Andy. Andy met Michael after the accident and, I believe, has been quadriplegic longer and had served in part as a guide through the various adjustments and services he'd work with. I, however, hadn't seen Moody for years, maybe even a decade. I'd heard about him more recently but for me he was still the demanding, control freak workaholic who'd been my first full-time job boss.

It was cold as we left the theatre on a late fall afternoon. Michael's aide and I had held the doors for the two chairs to get through and we were headed a few blocks away to the bus stop. I was trying to politely talk to Andy, who had struck up a conversation with me, while still including Michael who was a few chair lengths ahead. By the time we turned the corner he had widened his lead considerably and, with one ear cocked to Andy, I kept my eyes glued on Moody. His caregiver trailed well behind us all. My heart caught in my throat as he sped down a curb cut and across a potholed street. Miraculously he seemed upright and fine when I had to return my attention to Andy.

"That's amazing," he said to me.

"What?" I asked, taking another quick glance to see Michael summit the curb on the other side.

"Look at him out there on his own all independent."

I had to absorb that for a minute, it seemed to hold the slight warmth of guilt as I heard it. "That's funny. That's how he's always been."

"Oh, well, I've never seen him like that." Andy said neutrally.

And I had never seen him any other way because I had been gone so long. I only saw Andy a handful of times after that but I'm always grateful that, even if it was accidental, he pointed the change out. I needed it.

*Regrettably, and due entirely to my own failings, I don't have any photos of Moody. Before his accident he was a great cook and gardener so I'll try to honor him with photos of things he would have enjoyed when I'm decorating these posts.

1 comment:

  1. Oh I can't wait for more of these! Great beginning, and something I want to know more about. So sorry you lost him, glad you're honoring him.