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What’s Funny: On Falling Down, Etcetera

On Wednesday, I started reading The Fall by Diogo Mainardi, a memoir about fathering a boy who falls down a lot because he has cerebral palsy. I have cerebral palsy, too. That’s why it’s on my reading list.

On that same Wednesday, I fell. And I didn’t just fall – I fell with a glass Starbucks bottle in my hand. When it shattered, glass gouged an inch deep into my wrist. I would need six stitches there, and one more in my palm. I didn’t know that at the time.

In The Fall, Mainardi documents his son “learning to fall” – that is, not getting much better at walking without falling, but getting better at falling without hurting himself. Mainardi concludes that, as a life skill, there is more value in learning how to fall than how to walk.

Wednesday was a good demonstration of how I learned to fall. Here’s my process, step-by-step.

  1. When I heard the glass shatter, I thought, “That’s okay. I didn’t need those calories.”
  2. While I waited for an ambulance, a nice stranger stayed with me, keeping pressure on my wound. There was blood on my pants, blood in a puddle on the concrete between us. When we heard sirens in the distance, I looked up to catch his eye. I grinned. I said, “That’s my ride.”
  3. At the hospital, an APRN looked from the computer to me, then back to the computer. She said, “This intake says that you’re ten.”

  I looked over at the EMT intern, who had been made to fill out my intake form. I   said, “I’m flattered.”

  1. In an exam room, the APRN asked me what happened. After I told her, I asked, “If I say it happened in a raccoon fight, will you back me up?”

   “Yeah, I got you,” she replied.

  1. “You refuse to numb,” the APRN said, after injecting a lot of lidocaine into my hand.

   “It’s my super power,” I replied.

  1. “You have such a cool job,” I said, watching the APRN sew my hand back into shape. She said nothing, glancing my way only for a moment. I thought maybe I’d offended her.

Then she said, “What’s not cool is when people get upset. Most people aren’t calm like you. They see a lot of blood, think they’re gonna die, and panic.”

“We’ve got time,” I assured her. “I could still panic.”

  1. On the phone, my mother asked me, “Did you break your wrist?”

And I explained, “No. Mom, I’m 5’2; the ground isn’t that far away.”

  1. When a nurse with a computer on a cart came into my room to ask me questions about my insurance, I complimented her on her Dunkin’ Donuts cup, also on her cart. “Plastic instead of glass,” I observed. “That’s so smart.”
  2. I went home. Then I, a girl with cerebral palsy who has learned to fall, started reading The Fall. It’s on one of my course syllabi for this week. I didn’t manufacture the coincidence.

the fall cover

Diogo Mainardi’s story about his son, Tito, is like this: circular. Mainardi does not tell a chronological tale, but jumps between historical events and his own life, going out of order so that order can be achieved. Put another way, Mainardi uses this memoir to show how everything is connected – to show that the circumstances that seem to single his son out, to exclude him from a world everyone else has in common, make him a part of history – and of the future.

Mainardi draws links between big things (like medical advances for the disabled compared to Nazi extermination of disabled people) and small things (like various foods that were deadly to certain individuals). It’s a little like poetry, a little like stream of consciousness, and a little like a vision quest – you don’t know quite where you’re going, but you can see the path and the world around you is arranged just so. Everything makes sense – not because Mainardi has planned and plotted a perfect course, but because he leads you organically from each connection to another.

This is a lesson in letting what wants to be written be written, and to finesse later, I think. To learn to just fall, even in writing, is valuable.

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