“Anything good?” Marilyn asked as I was
thumbing through the mail.
“Yea, something from Social Security. Hey, maybe
they increased my benefits,” I replied, experimenting with
the outer limits of wishful thinking.
I ripped open the envelope addressed to Mr. Jon
Kawie (they misspelled my name yet again) and
proceeded to paraphrase the enclosed form loud enough
for Marilyn to hear.
“This is to inform you that we no longer consider
you Disabled. As of now you are officially just Old. Your
benefits will be decreased accordingly.”
“OK, not exactly in those words — but apparently I’ve
been reclassified from disability to retirement with a pay
cut in the process!”
I was speechless. How did I suddenly become
non-disabled when I still felt pretty damn disabled? If
my neurologist — who actually has a degree in medicine
— came up with this diagnosis there would be talk of
commitment proceedings. It’s not like Dumbledore waved
his magic wand and — poof! — my left hand started
working. Plus, being labeled “old” was more offensive to
It felt like Social Security had traded me behind my
back. For 20 years I was the leadoff hitter working my
butt off for Team Disability. Then suddenly, without
warning, I’m sitting on the bench for The Geriatrics
where I’m just a number. Granted, a nine-digit number,
but a number nonetheless.
I had two choices. I could see this as a premature
separation from my rightful group, or I could embrace it.
While I didn’t exactly embrace it, especially the reduction
in dollars, I did try to look on the bright side and find
some common ground.
For instance, having my stroke at 47 was like a dress
rehearsal for my senior years. I was instantly eligible for
Social Security and Medicare with all the accompanying
perks: movie discounts, restaurant coupons and half price
on planes, trains and rent-an-automobile! America may
run on Dunkin’ but I got the discount.
Then there’s the forgetfulness… I’m at a dinner
party trying to have a serious conversation expressing
my opinion about “That guy… you know… lives in that
house… always in the news… nice suits…” Suddenly I’m
playing charades, until someone blurts out, “President of
the United States!” Yet I have no problem remembering
the Doublemint gum jingle, both melody and lyrics!
What would this new classification mean?
I’ll have to surrender my disability Metro card for
a senior’s replacement. Before you know it, I’ll start
referring to people under 40 as “whippersnappers” and
words like “dagnabbit” and “brouhaha” will be part of my
everyday vocabulary. I’ll become crotchety and irritated
with the teenage greeter at CVS because, damn it, I know
where the Geritol is! “Antiques Roadshow” will have to
be avoided because any appraisal above $10 will be too
much for my heart. I’ll hate every song written after the
Beatles broke up. And if menus aren’t printed in letters
the size of Chris Christie, I’ll need binoculars to order the
early bird special.
It seems to be human nature to label people and put
them in categories. Our parents gave us names because
they wanted us to have an identity and to know who we
are. I’m neither old nor disabled. I’m just John — with an
“h” of course.
Curb Life at the
A Unique Perspective on His Survival
by Stroke Survivor and Comedian John Kawie
DVDs of John’s award-winning one-man show, Brain
Freeze, are available at Amazon.com. For booking
information, contact John at email@example.com.
See a clip from John’s one-man show, Brain Freeze.