Yesterday, Beatles, handicapped, cerebral palsyMy friend admits he’s “mildly disabled.”

He’s a quadriplegic, born with cerebral palsy, unable to steady his eyes enough to read, his arms and chest strapped into an electric wheelchair to help him sit up.

Did I mention he’s smarter than a Harvard grad, more intuitive than a psychic, as loyal as your best friend, and wears a smile brighter than a 100-watt bulb?

On a recent visit, I sit on his porch, feeling a fall breeze lightly surround us along with the Beatles music playing in the background.

“Yesterday,” C says in a fond tone, and I burst out laughing.

C and I discovered each other when I was hired to be his special ed tutor at the local high school. I was scared to death of teaching such a physically disabled teenager: his speech was affected by his cerebral palsy, so he sounded like a deep Southerner with a dozen marbles in his mouth; he tended to jostle his wheelchair joystick like a teenager’s foot on a snappy roadster (watch out for your ankles, I was warned when I signed on); and his body moved spasmodically if he got too excited or aggravated.Help, Beatles, tutor, high school


But I had not been told that he could retain information faster than a lightning bolt, and that his hearing put a dog’s to shame.

We’d roll down the high school hallway, passing Room 15 on our way to Room 17 for math. Suddenly C would state: “What a shame that Mrs. Johnson’s husband is in the hospital. At least her daughter is flying home from Ohio to visit.”

I’d stop mid-stride in the empty hallway (watching out for my ankles) and ask, “How do you know that?”

“Oh, back in Room 15 just now, Mrs. Johnson is talking about her troubles to Ms.Wanda.”

Perhaps C was nosy, but he also felt great empathy for those secrets he heard on his hallway forays.

During our three years of working together as tutor/student, we shared a love of Beatles music. So over lunchtime, when I fed him his turkey sandwich and lemonade (did I mention that C is unable to feed himself?) we’d listen to Twist & Shout and Here Comes the Sun while talking about the Red Sox and the weather, Lord of the Flies and why algebra was (not) important.

Here Comes the Sun, Beatles, high school tutor, cerebral palsy

But then during one lunch, C asked me to sing to him. “You know all the words,” he said. “Please please sing Yesterday (our favorite Beatles tune).”

If a 17-year-old brown-haired, brown-eyed earnest teenager pleaded with you to sing a Beatles tune, could you refuse?

I began as C chewed on his turkey and cheese.

Um, did I mention I can’t carry a tune?

In C’s blessed, blasted teenage fashion, he began to chuckle as I sang. I ignored him and continued, “All my troubles seem so far  away…”

C’s chuckles turned to guffaws.

“Now I need a place to hide away, oh I believe, in…”  

I learned that day that one should never make a wheel-chaired, disabled young man laugh while he’s eating. His giggles became burps which became hiccups which became acute stomach distress.

As I raced for the nurse, I could hear C still laughing uproariously in the distance.

He was rushed to the nurse’s station.

His mother was called.

His doctor, too.

But you know what?

He never told anyone that his stomach distress was caused by the horrendous singing of his high school tutor.

We’ve been fast friends ever since.

C is now 28 years old, still “mildly disabled,” and yes, he still asks me to sing Yesterday every time I come to visit.

I won’t even hum the song.

cerebral palsy, tutor, student, high school

My “Yesterday” friend with one of my grandbabies.

34 thoughts on “Yesterday

  1. What a beautiful post! I am laughing and crying at the same time. You learned so much from him, I am sure. And you’ve just widened our perspective a little bit today as well. Thank you for sharing.


    • C constantly teaches me lessons (and he doesn’t even know it). I can’t tell you how often I’d walk with him and see the looks of disdain/disgust/ignorance/fear in people’s faces. And C knows how to read each and every one of those looks. But he just smiles at each person and says a cheery hello.


  2. What a heart warming post Pam, and what an inspiring young man – wow! Thanks for introducing us, and for giving us a laugh (which, thankfully, didn’t result in stomach distress for me!) Have a great weekend! Blessings, H xxxx


    • Phew – I’m glad your laughter caused NO distress. I must admit, C still laughs at times when he shouldn’t (for his own health). Naughty guy. 🙂 But you know what? We MUST laugh to make it through, right?


  3. Pammy – neat story re C – I know him and know how much you mean to him.
    I also know how much you cannot “sing” loved it all Mom


  4. When I get out to California, I want to hear “Yesterday.” Your C sounds like an amazing human being. What a wonderful tale! I work with very special adults right now, and while I don’t get to interact with them a lot, I do meet and greet them in the hallways and have conversations throughout my day. Just because they have “challenges” doesn’t mean they aren’t able to have a wonderful life. I love the time I get to spend with them. I also worked at a school for the Deaf in NM, and that was the BEST job I ever had. I loved to visit with our students in their family units. I was often able to go on outings with the kids, and that was the best part of my job. Plus, I learned sign language!


    • Be careful what you wish for (ie, my rendition of Yesterday!). Yes, those with disabilities in many ways teach us to be humble and real. It’s not fair, but many ‘abled’ people treat the disabled as if they’re invisible. I bet you are just the opposite with those you work with. That makes YOU special.


  5. Pam, thank you SO MUCH for sharing that story! He sounds so much like a young man I worked with years ago that I had nearly forgotten. His story is too long for a reply, but now I will have to blog about him. You have definitely put a smile on my face this evening!


    • Oh my gosh, yes, when working with C (and now spending time with him as a friend) I never frown. I remember going to the high school bleary-eyed and tired at times, but as soon as I got with C., my entire persona became lighter and happier.

      Can’t wait to read your blog.


  6. It takes a special person to do that kind of a job. C was certainly a lucky guy to have you as his aide even though you say you can’t sing. What is he able to do now that he is out of high school???


    • C had worked as a receptionist for his dad’s firm answering phones and greeting people (when C hears a phone number once, for instance, he remembers it always). But his dad retired, so C goes out for coffee, listens to music and the police scanner, and knows EVERYTHING that’s going on in the town.


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  8. What a delightful and sweet story! (Roughwighting is now my one-stop-shop for delightful and sweet stories.) I think it is particularly remarkable that you and C are still in touch after all these years.

    Now, in addition to a paperback version of your book, I’d like to put in a request a Pam Wight LP of Beatles covers.


    • The really neat thing is that on a recent holiday, C made me a CD of my favorite Beatles songs. I treasure it (and no, sorry, I won’t share it, as much as I think YOU are delightful…)


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