A Patient Teacher

I was very pleasantly surprised by the large response (both comments on the blog and personal emails) to my post about the thoughtful manager who gave me some parting wisdom about myself. It got me thinking about another patient teacher that I’ve had.

When I was in college, I took a speech class. Have done this competitively in high school, I thought I had nothing to learn. I did learn so much in that class, not from the instructor (mainly because I wasn’t open to what she had to say), but rather from one of my fellow students.

GHS Speech and Debate Sweatshirt
I still have my high school speech and debate sweatshirt.


As I walked into class the first day, I was the second one to arrive. The first was an older (damn, she was my current age!) woman who had an obvious disability. I sat on the far side of the room from her.

“I don’t bite. I might drool on you, but I promise not to bite.”

I laughed and moved over to the seat next to her. She told me her name and that she had Cerebral Palsy, and she was proud to be in college, and could do it with some assistance. We sat next to each other the whole quarter and saw each other on campus periodically afterwards.

One day during my senior year I found her near the vending machines in a remote building. She was in a wheelchair instead of with her usual walker. I was thrown off by this. It scared me. I was so worried about her, but I didn’t know how to express it.

Sensing my discomfort, she powered herself over to next to a vacant bench and invited me to join her. When I sat down, she explained that walking was temporarily too difficult for her, so she got her wheels. She then said how glad I hadn’t seen her on the first day she had it. Evidently the factory default speed for her chair was high. She was in a hallway, when a bunch of classes were released at the same time. She pushed on the go forward lever, and ended up running down all the students in her path! We were both laughing as she recounted this and how she had to take her Death Race vehicle back to the shop for them to adjust it.

Because she took the time, she made me unafraid for her and of the chair. She didn’t have to do that. I’m so grateful she did.

We lost touch after I graduated. A couple years later I tried sending her a letter via the disabled students department at our university, but I have no way of knowing if she ever got it.

I tried Googling her, and unfortunately she doesn’t appear to be on any social media site. I did find an outfit that would sell me what they claim to be her address (person of the right name and right age and living in the same region as she had before).

Help me out: Cool or creepy to pay for the address and send her a letter?

2 thoughts on “A Patient Teacher”

  1. Cool. She’d probably love to hear from you. It’s so nice when people with disabilities make efforts to put others at ease. I feel that same discomfort. Why? I even get that way around really old people.


    1. I’m so glad you don’t think I’d be a creepy stalker for doing it! I know I’d regret it if I didn’t at least try to reach out to her one last time. She needs to know how much she influenced my life.

      How are you handling your daughter’s big move?


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