It’s always nice to have company as I prepare to step inside my own personal time machine. If you are here, and packed, you know how this works. We step back to the 1960’s, a time I am quite familiar with, and we ponder life then, and now, while sitting on the front porch.
We won’t be long and, I promise, you will not feel any adverse effects from the journey.
Shall we get started?
The Year Was 1960
I was twelve-years old in 1960, feeling my oats, feeling frisky, trying to carve out a foothold for myself as I approached my teen years, alternately excited and scared-spitless. My childhood had been a good one up to 1960. I was a middle-class white kid, I had two loving parents, and I was not wanting for any of the essentials of life.
I was an average student in 1960. I was much more concerned about sports, and being liked by my peers, than I was about dangling participles and the War of 1812. I loved baseball and I loved bowling, and beyond that I was a bit ambivalent. Girls scared the hell out of me. Nuns scared the hell out of me. I was safely tucked in my protective cocoon, wet behind the ears, waiting to spread my wings and fly, but not knowing what actual flight looked or felt like.
Proctor Bowling Alley
I spent most Saturdays at the Proctor Bowling Alley, located six blocks from my house. There I would spend whatever money I had made the previous week doing chores. Saturdays meant league bowling. Every Saturday our junior team, made up of five members, would take on a junior team from another bowling alley in Tacoma. It was great fun, it was competitive, and it taught us all about sportsmanship.
That particular season, in October, one member of our team came down with Chicken Pox, was sidelined for a month, which meant we needed a substitute to fill in for him, and that substitute turned out to be a new kid in the neighborhood, a kid we’ll call Sean. Truthfully, I no longer remember Sean’s last name, but I do remember he was an Army brat, meaning his family moved quite a bit. I also remember that Sean only had one normal hand. A birth defect left Sean with a left hand missing all fingers.
That was cool with all of us on the team. Sean was a nice guy, he was a pretty fair bowler, and he was accepted quickly by us all – but then our competition for that day, the team from Tower Lanes, arrived to play against us, and the snide, hurtful remarks began.
Kids are kids! That’s not an excuse, but it is a fact. Kids will make fun of those who are very different, whether it be the shy kid or the fat kid or, in that instance, the kid with one normal hand and one hand missing fingers.
A Tough Couple Weeks
We made it through that first week, and a couple weeks after that, our team members telling the visiting teams to shut up, knock it off, that sort of stuff, Sean embarrassed but holding his own, but then Week Four arrived, a team from Skyline Bowl arrived, and halfway through the first game, Sean fell to the floor, started to roll around, his eyes rolled back in his head, and he foamed at the mouth.
An epileptic fit, and trust me, none of us had ever seen anything like it in our sheltered lives.
The manager of the bowling alley came running down, rolled Sean over on his side, and about two minutes later the seizure ended, Sean was helped up, and shortly after that his mother came and took a crying Sean home.
Sean never again bowled in the league with us. As was the norm, word of the seizure, the kid with one hand, spread like wildfire through the neighborhood. Sean couldn’t go to the store on his bike without neighborhood kids mocking him by pretending to have a seizure, dropping to the ground, rolling around, that sort of stupid-ass crap. It was ugly, it was cruel, and, I’m sad to say, all too common then and now.
Sean and I remained friends until the day came when we both went away to college. During those teen years, Sean would ride his bike over to my house, and take part in games of football or baseball with my buddies. He was safe with us. We would stand by him, and fight with him, whenever a group of Neanderthals would pass by. Sean’s parents would visit my parents, come over for barbecues, card parties at night, pretty common stuff, and Sean and I would listen to music and laugh the way teenage boys laugh.
I’ve often thought about Sean. I wish I could remember his last name. I’d look him up, catch up on the past, find out how his life turned out.
They have some pretty effective medicines now for epilepsy. I’m hoping Sean found one of them and he was able to live a fairly normal life. I’m hoping the cruel treatment by others subsided, and Sean was allowed to live a life of peace.
I do a lot of hoping.
A Word of Two About Those Neanderthals
That’s what I call them, Neanderthals, because the other names I want to call them are unacceptable for this medium.
The thing is, to my way of thinking, those kids who made fun of Sean, who mocked him and ridiculed him, those kids were lacking a moral compass. It’s an injustice to chalk it up to boys just being boys. It’s insulting, quite frankly. Boys will be boys, but at no time is cruelty acceptable. Every mother’s son of them knew, when they were mocking Sean, that it was wrong to do so, but they embraced the pack mentality and went along for the ride, leaving Sean a weeping mound of flesh and blood with a severely wounded psyche.
I’m trying to image what it would have been like, in my home, if I had been one of those kids who mocked Sean. I promise you, no hyperbole at all, that my dad would have whipped my ass. He wouldn’t have stood for it. But that situation never would have happened, and the reason it wouldn’t have happened is because my parents raised me with a moral compass.
I say this to you now, as I would have said it to you then: not one person, whether that person be the President of the United States, or some teen in a bowling alley, has the right to mock a handicapped person.
And I say this to you as well: anyone who supports a person who would mock a handicapped person is guilty by association, is guilty of enabling that person, and shame on anyone who would allow that to happen. They are lacking a moral compass, period, end of story!
Our Journey Has Ended
Thanks so much for joining me on our trip back in time. It was nice having you as company. I certainly hope you don’t think I was talking about anyone in particular in today’s world. I’m afraid I’m just not clever enough to do that.