I Didn’t Know Any Better

I look back on my life frequently now and the biggest theme seems to be, “I didn’t know any better”.

I didn’t know I couldn’t, I shouldn’t, I wouldn’t . . . many things I tried to accomplish, no one in my family or group of friends had tried to do them. “Full Speed Ahead, Damn the Torpedoes” (David Farragut quote from Battle of Mobile Bay, although he said “Damn the Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead”, my speed meant more to me than my hinderances) was my motto. I had a focus and went after what was capturing my attention at the time.

Some of the first disregard for circumstances were during my childhood. I remember giving my one-armed grandfather a small Christmas gift, but I put that wrapped small gift into a slightly larger box and wrapped that up too . . . then found a slightly larger box than that and put the second box into the third box and wrapped it, and on and on until he had about 8 boxes to unwrap. It didn’t occur to me that he had only one arm. No one called him “handicapped” in our home. Having one arm was a part of him, just like the tatooes he sported were. I frankly didn’t notice or think about it. However, as he unwrapped the third or fourth box and began to laugh, he asked if he had a present or just a bunch of boxes? I had stopped unwrapping my own gifts to watch him because I hoped he’d laugh and enjoy my small gift just because of the way I’d wrapped it. But his words about a bunch of boxes caught my grandmother’s eye and she was very offended and upset with me for doing that to my one armed grandfather!! until he continued to laugh and said it was fine – to quit fussing. That attitude of not noticing what someone didn’t have or couldn’t do has followed me through life.

I was an older mother when I was pregnant with my third child. My doctor wanted to order many tests and I always refused them. When she asked why I thought I could take care of a handicapped child, I told her my grandfather had one arm and my mother had had polio and they did just fine. Still, the doctor made me sign a paper stating that if the baby had any defects that could have been detected in a test that I’d refused that I would not sue her. Sue her? She was taking care of me during what was a difficult pregnancy. Why would I sue her?

I watched my grandmother make things from nothing and marveled at her creations. She taught me many things that I still use today.

My first thought when considering a new endeavor is not “can I?”, but is “how can I?”.  Right now I am trying to make a series of videos and last night at dinner I asked my oldest son if he thought I’d make any money from them? He said maybe . . . probably . . . but the best thing is that it is giving me a focus and something to think about besides this aggravating condition that has made me have to quit working. He is right. I don’t think about, in anger, what I can’t do any more, but focus on new things that I can do.

Like Farragut said, “Damn the torpedoes, Full speed ahead!” He won and so shall I.



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