My name is Peter George Callas Jr.
I’m 51 years old.
And I’m handicapped.
Stripped to the bone, that’s who I am.
I know I shouldn’t refer to myself as handicapped but rather a “person with a disability.” But I’m not one for political correctness and I won’t buy into euphemisms when talking about myself. When you can’t raise your hand to scratch your nose or even breathe without help, I don’t care what you call me. I am messed up.
For nearly 40 years I have battled with Muscular Dystrophy over who controls my body. Slowly but surely the disease is winning the war. As much as I hate my handicap, it is just part of who I am.
I used to be worried about being considered handicapped. When I was younger and the disease was less evident, I didn’t want people to know. I never described myself as handicapped because I didn’t want to be judged.
Now I’m proud of it. I wear my disability like a badge of courage. I know it’s not like fighting for our country or running into a burning building to save a life, but I’d like to think that people like me, those who refuse to lie down when faced with monumental adversity, do deserve some recognition for putting one foot in front of the other, metaphorically speaking of course.
When I was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy – specifically FSH – I was a frightened 13 year old. But I was fortunate because I had great parents who taught me never to feel sorry for myself. They taught me about courage and perseverance and that strength wasn’t measured by how much you could lift. They taught me that just because I had a disability didn’t mean I couldn’t do whatever I wanted in life. And they never expected anything less from me.
I still remember the day shortly after the diagnosis when my dad sat me down at the kitchen table and gave me the FDR talk – how a man with a disability became president. It wasn’t until years later I fully appreciated the significance of the FDR talk. It helped guide me as I pushed myself to succeed in a world that doesn’t welcome people with disabilities.
Where my life would have gone had I not been the recipient a bum chromosome is unknown. I’ve asked myself many times if I had the chance to start all over without a disability would I be willing to throw away all that I have achieved and all the people I know and love?
Not be married to my wife, Toni, a true saint who means more to me than life itself? My friends and family? How ‘bout all those Bruce Springsteen concerts, the Yankee World Series memories, the Rangers Stanley Cup? Key West? My 25-year career as an award-winning newspaper editor?
I’ll take the cards I have, thank you.
Like so many of the more than 50 million Americans with a disability, I have seen my abilities decline over the years. As much as I have fought the progression of my disease, I have had to make concessions that I never imagined. But my life has never been about what I can’t do but rather what I can do.
Now the question will be: Can I write a blog about issues confronting me? By talking about my life with a disability can I engage you in a conversation that will help us understand what it’s like to be handicapped in America? And are you willing to share your thoughts about living with a disability so that we can help this society look past the wheelchairs and accept us as part of the AbleNation?
You can bet your ass I’m going to try. That’s what WE do.