James P. Wagner (Ishwa)
His disability was your excuse.
was why you did everything for him,
after his father left.
Woke him up,
Made his bed,
Breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Did his laundry,
ironed his clothes.
took a second job so he wouldn’t have to work one,
even though he’s 24 and you’re 65.
But he can’t work, right?
He can’t clean, he can’t do his laundry,
he can’t cook…
“He’s autistic! What do you expect?!”
What do I expect?
I don’t expect anything,
but I remember:
I remember him, in the marching band,
playing that trombone with more enthusiasm
than more than half of his fellow musicians.
I remember his dramatic readings,
in English class.
Iambic pentameter flowing out of his mouth as
naturally as each breath.
I remember, in history, he never forgot a date, could
name all the presidents backwards.
In science class…they might not have let him handle the
after that…unfortunate incident with the eyebrows,
BUT…he has the entire periodic table memorized.
When he got hold of the football,
parted like the Red Sea
No one wanted to mess,
we all stood out of the way, of THAT charge.
I remember his room, spotless.
I remember him cleaning, taking the garbage.
I remember him making his own dinner.
I remember him…being, social…as best as he could.
early in eighth grade, when he did something wrong, you’d punish him.
I remember later on in eighth grade…the punishments
I remember in the middle of eighth grade,
When he would hum to himself,
and twiddle his fingers non-stop, and not realize,
when the other kids were making fun of him for it.
I remember they, the teachers, couldn’t handle
that he couldn’t sit down
for the entire period.
that they were clueless concerning him, and when it came time for a convenient classification, a consistently
competent yet callous teacher aid uttered the possibility
“Maybe he’s on the spectrum.”
His disability, you say,
Was his disability the reason
he could calculate faster and in higher denominations than
Was his disability what put him on the honor roll,
was his disability what got him more scholarships to more
colleges than our graduating class’s valedictorian?
free dorm room,
Meal plan, books, all bought and paid for in a package fit
for a king,
before he set foot there, only so you could tell him,
“It’s ok, you don’t have to do this if you don’t want to,
you can drop out.”
So he did:
So now, he sits in his room,
all day long,
and you make his bed,
breakfast, lunch dinner,
wash his clothes,
clean the bathroom after him,
Gaining fat, gaining weight,
on the computer,
video games, 24/7
No friends to speak of,
No responsibility, productivity,
Life to call his own?
What happens to him
when you’re gone?
Now that you’ve taken off his gloves,
taken him out of the ring,
his muscles have atrophied,
no longer able to go ten rounds, with life.
Will he relearn all that you made him forget?
Or will it be KO in round one?
I don’t know,
but don’t talk to me
about his disability
because I remember
what I didn’t stop him from doing.
Disability defined as what gives one a disadvantage.