An Interview With Leonard Kriegel
I think crippled is the best word because it’s the most accurate. As a writer, I think language is supposed to be strong and definitive, and should speak of what is. Even the sound of crippled tells you something. It has a harshness about it that speaks to the condition. The writer’s job is to communicate an experience, and when you abstract from it with terms like “differently abled,” there’s no way you can communicate the pain of not being able to use your legs and the rage that is an inevitable concomitant of that pain.
Over the past five years, as I have moved into the solidity of middle age, I have become aware of a surprising need for symmetry. I am possessed by a peculiar passion: I want to believe that my life will balance out. And because I once had to learn to fall in order to keep this life mine, I now seem to have convinced myself that I must also learn to fall into death.
My son Josh once wrote me a letter in which he described hiking alone in the mountains of Ecuador, fourteen thousand feet above sea level. The tiny lights of a village shone below him, and the snowcapped cone of a volcano was visible in the distance. “The stars and planets are incredibly low, large, and brilliant here,” he wrote. The tone of his letter was ecstatic, like Sufi poetry — love and immanence spiced with joy.
I was hopeful as I drove my parents’ snow-covered car from their house in Shaker Heights to the Judson Park Retirement Community, where they now resided, at the edge of downtown Cleveland. After several months, Judson still seemed satisfactory to me.