4. Old-Dixie

A few weeks went by and the car accident, meeting Dr. Gray, and telling my family all seemed like a distant dream as I woke up, ready and content to conquer the world. The night before, my mama had told me that because Claudia was going to the same place I was, she was going to start taking me to my Chiropractic appointments.

My mama had been taking me to Dr. Gray’s office three times a week. Every appointment looked and felt exactly the same – nothing ever changed. The days I had a Chiropractic appointment, I would wait in the “car riders” line after school. I felt so cool being a “car rider,” instead of heading to the dreadful, sweat-stained, yellow school buses where the older kids would try to bully the younger ones around. They learned quickly that they should never mess with me. One day, many years before, one of the older boys had come up to me and tried to push me around, but I wasn’t about to take crap from anyone. I was nearly five inches shorter, but that didn’t stop me. I tiptoed to appear an inch or so taller, grabbed his shirt, and said “don’t ever mess with me again or you’ll regret it.” The next day, I was so nervous heading towards the bus. My pseudo confidence had melted down by that point, and all that was left of me was the raw innocent version. I thought for sure I was going to be in so much trouble, but he never acknowledged my existence again. And just like that, I was untouchable.

As I stood there, in the single-file car rider’s line, with my backpack to my knees (because that’s how all the cool kids wore it) waiting for my mama’s car to show up, I usually daydreamt about what it would be like to be straight one day. You know, daydream of what it was like to have a straight spine. It was a constant daydream of mine. I had these elaborate visions of one day miraculously being stretched out like spaghetti, and just like that, I would be straight forever. It was always such a happy dream of mine – to be straight one day. But every time my name was called – “Miss Velez, your mom is here” –  I would be sucked away from my dreams and placed back into reality.

My mama would always bring me a Zephyrhills water bottle and a snack for the 20-minute ride down Orange Ave towards Dr. Gray’s office. I would sit in the front seat devouring my Nature Valley honey crunch granola bars and space out. Every appointment was exactly the same. My mama would drop me off and leave me there while she went to run errands. So most of the time, I would go into Dr. Gray’s office alone. Since I had been going for several weeks, the ladies and the Border Collie all knew me well. I would always patiently wait in the waiting room, and when my name was called, I would head back for a chiropractic adjustment. The entire adventure usually took no more than 20 minutes, but it was still rare that my mama would wait for me.  Thinking back to that time, I realize how difficult it all must have been for her. I don’t think her absence was intentional, but I do think it was all too much for her to deal with, so instead of being there to support me, she sought solace in other activities.

But then again, it really wasn’t unusual for her to leave me places for extended periods of time, and I was always so embarrassed when she did. This one time, many years before my scoliosis diagnosis, she dropped me off at the pet store so that I could walk around and see the animals. This was one of my favorite things to do. I would walk around and stare at all the displays. I loved being with the animals, and it was something my mama didn’t really enjoy doing with me. So instead of walking through the pet store with me and waiting until I was done exploring every new pet they had recently brought in, she left me there. Alone. For about two hours. I remember pacing back and forth throughout the pet store, not knowing what to look at and not wanting to get in anyone’s way. I didn’t know when she was coming back – all I could do was wait. The owner of the store kept staring at me until he finally asked me if I knew my phone number. I called home and got the answering machine. When she finally came back, the owner of the store was so furious that my mama had left me there, he took it upon himself to tell her that his shop was not a daycare, and that next time it happened he would have to call the authorities. Needless to say, we never went back to that pet store, and my mama just laughed it off as if nothing really serious had happened.

Still, it’s hard to really blame her. My mama had been through so much in her life that dealing with my scoliosis was just one more thing that I am not sure she was prepared to handle. It’s for that reason that I wasn’t really surprised to be pawned off with Claudia. I am not sure whether Claudia offered to take me or if my mama just asked her to do it. It didn’t really matter to me; I was thrilled that I was going to get a chance to hang out with Claudia. At that point, I would have done anything for a good role model.

Don’t get me wrong, being the baby of the family came with so many role models. I always had Farith and Naty, who were both ahead of me by several years. Their life choices, personalities, and mistakes were laid out for me to copy from, emulate, repeat, change, and recreate. I had two life paths, molds if you will, that I could choose from or just change and make my own. Through their lives, I had the advantage of knowing what do with my own life.  My reliance on copying my brother and sister meant that I had a hard time knowing exactly who I was, because I was always too busy trying to be like everyone else.  But even with them in my life, I realized that I was still missing the type of role model that I wanted, so I was delighted to have Claudia in my life. It meant that I would have someone older who could be my friend.

I was so nervous the afternoon that Claudia came to pick me up. I had gotten home from school at 3:00 pm, and my appointment with Dr. Gray was not until 4:00pm. From 3:00pm till 3:30pm, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I stared intently out the window, I went to the bathroom a million times, I paced around in circles  by the front door. I didn’t want to miss it when she first arrived. I wanted to make sure I was ready to go as soon as she got there. What if she didn’t like me? I paced back and forth a little more. What would I talk about? I nervously rubbed my sweaty hands along my jeans to wipe them off. What if she doesn’t come? I thought to myself, while I kept dancing around the front door – until, finally, she was there.

Without hesitation, I gave my mama a kiss on the cheek, and she made the hand motions to bless me on my journey to the chiropractor. As I ran to Claudia’s ever-green Honda Accord my mama waved and yelled “echese la bendicion.” I am not really Catholic, but I am Hispanic, and blessing people comes with the territory. Any time I got into a moving vehicle, I had to bless myself so that God would be with me during my journey. To this day, these mannerisms are hard to escape. They are so engraved in who I am that I feel strange when I don’t do it. I opened the passenger-side door, slid into the front seat and leaned over and gave Claudia a kiss on the cheek. We started pulling away from the driveway and my mama was still watching and waving good bye, while Julian was in the backseat hanging out making weird baby noises. He was Claudia’s six-month-old son.

In many ways, Claudia was my hero for a few short months. She gave me the support that I needed during a really difficult time in my life, and I couldn’t help but look up to her. Claudia, was about 24 years old at the time, maybe 25. She was talkative, outgoing, and a really confident person.  She had been working at Red Lobster as a hostess for several years and would always bring my mama some of their wild rice – she was obsessed with it. In the car ride to the Chiropractic office we would always listen to Puff Daddy’s No Way Out cassette. Just like my sister, Claudia loved to listen to it on repeat – it was her favorite – and in the end, it ended up being my favorite too.

I recently played the album again on Spotify to reminisce about those days. I hadn’t heard the songs since the days I hung out with Claudia. As soon as she stepped out of my life, so did Puff Daddy. But, when the song “Victory” came on, I felt the bass take me back to the days when I sat in her Honda Accord, marveling at the way she drove a manual car. Hanging out with Claudia was like having a big sister who liked hanging out with me too – I loved it. It was a nice, needed change. We drove to Dr. Gray’s office together for a month or two listening to Puff Daddy until Claudia started feeling better.

The last week of going to Dr. Gray’s office together, Claudia took me to eat what she called “the best fried chicken in Orlando.” Old-Dixie is a little shack-like place located right on Orange Ave near Pine Castle. It’s still there, if you ever get the urge to try it. The place was decorated in 70s decor with brown and yellow plaid tiles on the floor – I am pretty sure it still looks the same. We sat down in the side room on the left-hand side. Our table had just been wiped down, but the vinyl was still sticky from all the old spills. We were the only people eating at the restaurant, and I didn’t understand why they were still in business. Maybe it was the giant chicken display they had outside that drew people in, or maybe it was the charm of the decor – maybe it took them back to a different time like a time capsule. Normally, I would never go to a place I didn’t know or hadn’t been to before. I was such a picky eater and didn’t really like exploring with my food. I basically only ate cheese sandwiches and strawberry yogurt, so it was a big deal for me to step outside of my comfort zone and join Claudia in a deep-fried chicken basket. It was one of our last days of hanging out together, and I didn’t know what to say. In my mind, I didn’t see this as the end. I thought it would be like this forever, but it wasn’t.

Once we were done eating, Claudia dropped me off, and that was basically it. The many afternoons we had together were memories I cherished, and still cherish. It was nice to have her in my life for a little while. She filled a void I had, and for a small period of time she was the friend I had always wanted.

Photo Credit: flickr.com/photos/ricklangphoto/8378752786

31 thoughts on “4. Old-Dixie

  1. loving your story. I would love to know more about what happened after the accident. You left me hanging! were the chiropractic visits helping at all?

    1. Hi Laura – Sorry for leaving you hanging, but I am writing the story one post at a time 🙂 The Chiropractic appointments didn’t do anything for me. I went for about two years, and at one point, Dr. Gray refused to tell me what type of Dr. treated scoliosis. I eventually got to see an Orthopedic, who told me I had to have surgery ASAP or I wouldn’t make past 30. I am 28 years old today, and I plan to really celebrate my 30th!

  2. I have a cousin who had such bad scoliosis that the surgeon said she’d be in a wheel chair in 5 years if she didn’t have surgery. She opted for surgery. It took her over a year of therapy and hard work to recover, but she’s off and running now…even made it for a trip to Iceland last summer! She is 72. So, I pray you have great success in your journey—body, soul, and spirit!

    1. WOW – that’s hard to hear at any age. The recuperation is such a challenge, but I am happy to hear she hasn’t let it stop her! It’s really inspiring to know that at the age of 72, she’s managed to have scoliosis surgery recuperate. Thank you so much for sharing that with me 🙂

  3. Exquisitely written prose! I like your bravery and I hope you recover from scoliosis (curvature of the spine). There’s brilliant radiance in your writing soothing the mind of the reader to graze with it. Anand Bose from Kerala

    1. Thank you so much. I’ve never really felt like an excellent writer so reading this is really encouraging. I recently fell down the stairs so I’ve been starting rehab all over again and I’ve been bedridden for about a month.

      1. Oh that’s sad. I hope you recover quick, beautiful soul Anand

  4. I totally disregarded your rules about starting with post number 1, and I read this one first. Really, I found this post and I didn’t notice that there were other posts. I got so interested in your writing, your story, your life, that I started with the first paragraph and kept reading. It’s so personal and honest, and yet light hearted. Like, you’ve gone through difficult stuff, but it hasn’t made you hard. You’re still understanding and loving and can take the good of a situation and be made better for it. That’s what I got from this short glimpse into your past at least. I look forward to reading more, and hoping everything turned out better, it seems like it has, as you are currently writing about it, in not totally bitter tones.

    1. HAHA- I have been trying to figure out the best way to lay out the blog, and I really haven’t figured out a good solution yet. I release a new post in the story of my life every 2-3 weeks, and every new post details what happened next. This all happened about 20 years ago, but I am still going through it. I recently fell down the stairs and I’ve been bedridden for about a month and a half. I am glad that it doesn’t come off as bitter because I’m really not. I’ve been through a lot, but it’s made me who I am. Thank you so much for reading my story and for the comment!

      1. Yeah, I kinda gave up on a pretty layout for my blog ages ago. I’m generally so focused on just writing things that I don’t really think about how easy or difficult it is to navigate my page. I suppose this is why experts have web designers…Anyway, I look forward to your next post! Sorry you’re still going through it, but at least, like you said, the past events have made you who you are today, and hopefully that person is stronger and more patient and better able to handle the events of now. Though it’d really be nice if we didn’t have to deal with things like sickness and pain. But with those come the brilliance and the wisdom and the knowledge…Everything can help build your character for the better if you let it, that’s my philosophy at this current moment anyway…Then when something bad happens it’s back to, WHY ME!!!????

      2. In my day job, I am a Marketer, so I usually think about how easy it is for people to navigate through the my blog. So far, I haven’t really come up with a easy-to-use solution – oh well – maybe it’s a testament to my skills 🙂 It is so weird going through things in life. It often feels super surreal. Like is this really my life? I am on a mission to feel better so hopefully it happens soon!

      3. Woah, yea, you best get on that! Or just slack because this isn’t your job, it’s your blog, and you have the power! Unless you love your job because you love to organize things in a lovely way to get people interested…Then…Eh. And yeah, I’ve had a couple of those surreal moments. I distinctly remember when I broke a vertabra in my neck 3 months after having chiari decompression surgery, and I was just like, WHY??? Sometimes life is more dramatic than I ever thought possible. Most of the time I’m incredibly bored and thinking up non-existent drama though, I’m spoiled and I’m blessed. I definitely am hoping with you, I’ll even say some prayers.

      4. Yeah, I think I’ll slack off for now – no need to be too ambitious. WOW – how long was your recovery? That sounds so horrible! It’s super easy to get caught in the hamster-wheel of life – everyday looking exactly the same – that’s usually when we all seek the drama. The good news is that when we do go through a horrible life event, we usually become so much more grateful for those “normal” times. Thank you so much for praying for me – it always helps.

      5. Yes, let the blog chill. There are other times for ambition. – Well, I was starting to feel okay about 3 months after surgery, then my neck broke and I was in a neckbrace for 3 months, and then I was out of the neckbrace. The last physical therapy appointment I had in relation to recovering from all this stuff was around 2 and a half years after it all started, but even now, at 3 years and 1 months post surgery, I’m thinking of making another appointment for the occasional pains and muscle aches, and the fact that my shoulders are rock solid most of the time, when they should probably feel a little bit more like muscle tissue.
        On the plus side, the physical therapy includes exercising, so I’m forced to exercise to not be in pain, so I’ve become just a tad more physically fit. Yeah, going through all of it makes everything just seem so much better, I mean, once you’re through it. Like, going from the hospital to home made me realize just how great it is to get a full night of sleep, the joy that it is to not get your blood taken at six am and be surrounded by doctors. And my first shower post surgery, despite the fact that it wasn’t really even a full shower and was more like my mom helping me dump buckets of warm water over me as I exhaustedly sat in a shower chair, it was marvelous. Hot water is a gift. God loves us so much that he gave us HOT WATER. I’ve gone on a while. Anyway, yes, the pain makes the moments of joy so much more beautiful when we experience them. And I wrote a blog post sized response. Aye. I do that. I shall keep praying, it does help.

      6. You should try an acupuncturist or a chiropractor if you haven’t already. I can’t rave enough about their ability to help balance out the body/ relief some pain. It’s really nice to be at the other side of the tunnel – the “I made it,” feeling! I hate having to depend on everyone to do everything for me – it’s such an awful feeling. But that’s life. Also, have you tried just going to a Jacuzzi? I could stay there forever just for the happy relaxed feelings it provides. I hope you get better soon and keep me posted. I am praying for you too – we got to stick together 😉

      7. Yea…I just also have a bone disease and am scared they’re gonna break something and leave me paralyzed. Also, Jacuzzi’s are lovely, I was in one last summer, it was good. I just need to call my PT again :/ . Thank you for the prayers! Yes, people do need to stick together.

  5. Good morning. Thanks so much for following me. I’ll be following along too and reading along for this interesting story of your life. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    1. Hi Run Wright- I really enjoyed your weekly reads Wednesday! I will def. be looking for it next week 🙂 Take care and thank you for the comment!

  6. Hi bendy its your favourite epileptic!!!! I cannot think of anyone who was of outstanding or individual support to me?
    Your writing made me realise why. Come 14 years old, fairly serious seizure was still happening but I was just David, no one in the family treated me any differently, than my 2 healthy brothers or baby sister. They didn’t ignore what was happening but had either been told to pretend life continues as normal when I came around or decided themselves that treating me as an invalid was not a good idea. As the eldest I was still the first assistant in the kitchen, garden and baby-sitter later which was probably about 14 too as only 8 years divides us all.
    School was cool as well, I had enough friends who did not seem to be put off by my carpet beating. Some I know to this day, especially with the internet placing a lot of old friends back in one’s path. But then recently Valerie reappeared, a school friend who had apparently married another friend and had 3 children and a seemingly comfortable life, on facebook, I think, through another friend. Valerie was my first love with a beautiful smile and only seeing her now could I realise she looked after me for a couple of years. But what had she put up with going out with the fitting boyfriend? Who of course must be “mentally disturbed” or something? It was a very happy love, we were always laughing and very close and she too made no big deal out of what had just happened or why we were sitting in a hospital.
    That normality in everyday relationships, private or public is where I gleaned the strength to continue that way, literally dust myself off and back to what I was doing before if I hadn’t broken it – hehe.
    love – x

    1. Hey there! OH man, how nice is it to see your name on my posts! I’ve missed you. Sorry I’ve been SO completely MIA. Life got hard and complicated and The Curvy Spine took that back burner. Normality, is a term I have been toying with so much recently. In a way, when other’s make you feel like you are normal, you end up somewhere close to it. You try hard to ensure that you are not different that you too can do what everyone else can do. But, when you’re disability gets in the way of being normal, it gets hard. Especially for those of us who have a hidden disability. If they don’t see it, they don’t know it’s there. I fell down the stairs about a month ago and I am trying so hard to be normal, but it’s really difficult. People are not very understanding of my SLOWLNESS. Getting on the BART in SF is a real struggle and just walking down the street without getting ran over is hard. I’ve thought about getting a cane or something so that the world could see that yes there is something wrong 😉 Hope your doing well and it’s great to hear from you!

      1. Its great to hear from you – acceptance is what I struggle to keep in balance with a health service dying before my eyes, doctors no longer interested, nurses who can barely speak english and a generation just after my teens who don’t want to know about looking after others. Its getting harder because of the shortage of money in other’s pockets. We have a government who should pursue the billions of unpaid tax but insist they must clamp down on benefit fraud. If you are not in a wheel chair you must be able to work is their attitude. The examination of the disabled was undertaken by a private company that could not meet the figures it promised the government in reductions of support payments. After they have won a national election, figures are creeping out how many people who with some genuine health problem died within weeks of interviews and assessments which concluded “you can work”. The shock? 200,00 disabled people passed away over 3 years in GB, during and shortly after the indigity of these examinations by non-medical staff. I now have more money than before because the government insisted I went through this process a second time. I did not ask for it but I have extra support now and have arranged for a neighbour who is also a care-worker to come and see me once a week. – Sorry don’t know where all that came from. Do you take confession?
        Got together with Sheena couple of years back after 3 years of chatting on here. A wild romance followed but I don’t think she could handle my problem in the end. I do think of you

      2. Dealing with healthcare system is something that has proven to be a GIANT challenge. I recently fell down the stairs, and it’s been an incredibly slow recovery. I was caught between a rock and a hard place. My doctor refused to sign my disability and my employer didn’t want to let me work from home. I bough a cane and went into work, but dealing with the commute was a nightmare. All I can say is that people are not always nice. I don’t have the solution to the government’s inability to recognized those that are disabled, but I do know that more people need the recognition that aren’t receiving it. I wish so badly that scoliosis would be recognized as a disability, because it is one, and I deal with those challenges, daily. I haven’t been to confession in so many years. For such a long time I gave up on my catholic faith, but recently its kinda of been pulling me towards it – maybe I should listen. Do you take confession? Do you find it helpful if you do? Life is filled with so many challenges, and I often wonder how any one puts up with my struggles. It’s not for the weak. I wish you a very blessed 2016 New Year!
        Sending lots of happy thoughts your way!

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