Tim and Kim Klima have been to many places over the years with their only child, Emily, when strangers approached with questions.
“What’s wrong with your daughter?”
“Did she fall?”
“Did she break something?”
Emily, 15, has grown up with the questions, too.
When the family members explain that Emily has a disability, the response is pretty much the same.
“I'm so sorry,” said Emily, a Depew High School sophomore.
“There's nothing to be sorry for,” she always thinks in her head and often says out loud.
Depew teen with cerebral palsy hopes new physical therapy center, unique to the region, will help her walk crutch-free
“I definitely feel a lot more mobile leaving than when I'm coming in,” Emily Klima, 15, said. “And I definitely feel like I've gotten stronger every time I leave here.”
Emily, born with cerebral palsy, takes her condition in stride.
It isn’t always easy.
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She soothes and steels her spirit through writing, including a piece that came together in September after a particularly hard day at school.
“I remember paying attention to all these little things happening,” she said, “and it kind of all just spilled out.”
She shared it with The Buffalo News.
By Emily Klima
"You’re so lucky."
“I know exactly what you’re going through.”
The words echo constantly in my mind, a never-ending, never-silent chasm as they peer through my life with the rose-colored glasses that they are so privileged to have.
They live in the midst of a friend who goes by the name of ignorance. I’ve met him a few times; when they look at me, they meet him every day.
I walk through the buzzing, burning chaos of the halls. They see a typical girl, sometimes happy, others annoyed. To them she is simply walking, going about her day.
But they don’t hear it.
The sound of my mind working a million miles a minute.
Move. You’re in the way, you’re always in the way.
Keep your muscles engaged, you should know this by now.
Put your shoulders in the right place.
Don’t let your knee give out yet. Just a few more steps…
My muscles ache. I tell them so.
“I get growing pains too!”
Do you? My lips dare to utter.
They do not.
They experience child’s play. I’d give anything to have a break from the work.
Consistently my body screams, and when the time comes for it to grow, there is nothing to make the pain demean.
Nothing to keep the tightness at bay when my hips just don’t feel right or my body won’t stay.
“You’re so lucky you can come to class late.”
Lucky because I’m fighting with legs tied down at my sides? Lucky because I’m coming in breathless with a body that only wants to fight?
Or am I lucky because someone carries my books?
I challenge you: Pay attention to their looks.
Take your mother to school, feel helpless as she spills information that makes you feel like a fool.
I am lucky but what you don’t see is a girl sobbing in the arms of her mother because she is not like the others.
Because she cannot do half of the things that they can do, without being tied to her parents for her every need. A dog trapped on its lead.
To you, I am lucky because you see the fun. Taking the elevator and having a seat when I am too tired to run.
To me, they are the missing piece. The parts that finish up a puzzle that was never even complete.
But then, when I tell you what you’re saying is wrong, when I can no longer keep my feelings at bay…
You tell me, “Relax, they didn’t mean it that way.”
What happened to impact versus intent?
When all I am left to do is relent.
When I fight you wonder why.
Why I go to therapy.
Or why I fight to see someone like me.
You scoff at my Chucky obsession, so sit down while I teach you a lesson.
Nica Pierce. She is strong and fierce. She wears her disability like it's a creed. “I am disabled not a child.” She screams to those who’ve hurt me.
Wonder why I love Tiffany Valentine, I assure you my reason has never been asinine.
Because she loved someone like me. Without even thinking about what that would mean.
Sure it is messy, bizarre and has friction.
But it is the best I’ve been represented in fiction.
With heart, passion, power. Portrayed like anyone else, not infantilized or denounced.
In the past, I’ve begged for scraps.
A world that claims equality, yet somehow I barely see me.
So next time I take the elevator, complain of my pain, or rave over a story that gives me a place…
Instead of telling me how lucky I am, or “just trying to understand.”
Just listen, and remember how lucky you were to live unaware.
Twitter: @BNrefresh, @ScottBScanlon