I stumbled across this beauty the other day while searching in the office closet for a photo album… I had to share.
So…What does a star student earn in gym class in elementary school and junior high when she has an undiagnosed neuromuscular disease?
Straight C’s…oh yeah baby!
Despite most students declaring PE class was an easy “A”…I am pretty sure I NEVER earned higher than a C and I believe I even got a D or two…
Was it because I was disrespectful to the teacher? For not participating and deciding to sit on the sidelines and paint my finger nails?
NOPE….it was simply because in their eyes, I was never participating enough…never trying hard enough…not putting forth much effort…always failing the state/district physical assessments…I was always the last one finished…always being yelled at for not running when we were supposed to be RUNNING, NOT WALKING! I was always being told to pick up the pace, try harder, stop dawdling, stop being lazy, stop holding everyone else up, stop trying to get out of doing the activity and DO SOMETHING!!!
The sad thing was…Believe me…I was trying harder than anyone else in that class with almost almost ZERO to show for it. Nothing except for sweat, nausea, frustration, tears running down my cheeks, and loss of self confidence…
PE literally beat me up and made me sick, every week.
My body simply failed me every time. There were rare occasions when I felt good and could participate halfway normally, but not enough to ever earn me an A, or even a B, for goodness sake!
I used to pray we wouldn’t go outside for gym class when the weather was nice, while my classmates all prayed that we would! For me, that meant extra stairs to navigate. Extra effort and some days I just did not have the strength to do it.
I used to cry and beg and plead with my Mom to PLEASE, let me stay home from school on gym class days. I remember kneeling on the floor in the kitchen, sobbing. I’d BEG her to please write me a note so I didn’t have to participate, at least! Something! But she didn’t have a good reason to and she didn’t. I can’t blame her. She didn’t realize how bad it was for me. She wasn’t there to see it. She wasn’t in my body living it. The doctors didn’t believe me, so why should she? It was a terrible cycle.
I used to pray for no assessments.
I used to pray for no running games.
I used to pretend to tie my shoe or trip so I would get tagged out early in a game since it meant I got to sit out. But…If being tagged meant you were “it”… I was so screwed. I could never catch anyone…
I used to pray we wouldn’t play basketball. Especially in Junior High when I had a gym teacher who thought he was so hilarious. He’d proclaim with a huge smile on his face that anyone who couldn’t make the “easy” basket with the basketball, was a “Jerry’s Kid”… Nice. Because I WAS A JERRY’S KID! Thankyouverymuch! And everyone laughed at anyone who missed the shot and chanted “Jerry’s Kid!!”
I knew I would never be able to make the shot and had to brace myself to be humiliated. Jerry’s Kid!!!…😢
I was always picked last for teams, unless a friend was choosing the team that day. I always heard the grumbles from the athletic boys and girls when their team got “stuck” with me. It stung every time…
I broke down one day and told my mom that the teacher was calling the kids “Jerry’s Kids” if they didn’t make the basket, or if you were last in a race or whatever… By this time, I had a generic “diagnosis” that was not really my true diagnosis, but at least it said I had SOMETHING going on and my muscles were not normal (congenital myopathy)… So, my mom wrote a note firmly asking the teacher to STOP making fun of Jerry’s Kids and explaining the importance of the MDA Telethon and Jerry Lewis. I trembled as I handed him the note before class. He read it and called me into his office which was in a corner of the gymnasium right by the locker rooms where everyone filed out and stared…wondering if I was getting in trouble?
He apologized. Told me it was “all in fun” and he was not making fun of ME ! Well. That didn’t feel like a very good apology. But whatever. He says he’d stop and he’d make sure he would make the kids stop chanting it, too.
I didn’t know if I was relieved? Or mortified? I hated being “outed” as being different even though it had to be so obvious! I was scared the teacher would call ME up in front of everyone and tell them to stop making fun of Jerry’s Kids because I was one… I really just wanted to crawl in a hole for the rest of the school year…
That afternoon, on the bus ride home…a classmate who rode the same bus as I did, and who was NOT at all nice to me…cornered me on my way onto the bus and wouldn’t let me pass him. He got in my face and said:
“Hey, Jerry’s Kid! I got your application for the Special Olympics!”
Then he burst into laughter. His friends started laughing too… I felt my blood boil, my stomach turn…tears well up in my eyes. I hated him! I hated myself.
I can’t remember if I said anything in return. I didn’t tend to fight back in those days. I’d just hang my head and try to pretend to disappear… So, I think I just sat down. But I do remember that I tried to mask my tears, but my friend saw them. She told me not to listen to him…that he’s stupid, etc. and tried to be comforting… but it didn’t lessen the sting. The damage was done. He saw me crying and starting making baby cry noises and called me a baby… it was a really long bus ride home.
Despite eventually knowing I had some sort of unknown neuromuscular disease and that I was a “Jerry’s Kid” I still got a “C”… nobody understood me. Not my doctors, not my parents, not my teachers and not my friends. It was a lonely place to be…inside my head. Filled with anxieties and fears and unknowns.
But hey! At least the gym teachers never failed me! I passed! Lol
If only the teachers knew just how hard I was really trying! How much determination and power it really took for me to just walk out onto the field…to lift the basketball over my head…to climb onto the balance beam and not fall…to dodge the ball flying at me…to do even one jumping jack…to walk when I couldn’t run…to not fall down in front of everyone… to simply walk the stairs to get to class where I knew I’d be humiliated…
If only they knew….