Tuesday, March 07, 2006


When he was alive, Christopher Reeve and I didn't quite see eye to eye regarding his attitudes and ideas about disability. As much good as he did, for all the money he raised for research, I felt like he still misled the public in some material way: he was never going to walk again. His particular spinal cord injury was too severe, his spinal cord was, in fact, severed. Despite all the progress that's been made, medicine and science have a long way to yet go before that level of damage might be repaired, if ever. Reeve relentlessly painted the worst picture imaginable of living with a disability. For him, I know it was hard. God knows I'm not exactly fond of my own spinal cord injury and the ways in which it completely changed my life. But, if life is to be lived then you go on, you make whatever peace you can.

I'm reminded of the creepy commercial in which a computer graphic version of his body walked with Reeve's head unconvincingly grafted on. It was appallingly dehumanizing.

And I think of the countless hours he spent each day in physical therapy, in a desperate attempt to cajole a body back into his command.

Hours that would have been more wisely spent with his family, who would not have him much longer. And now his wife has died.

It's strange because I've been thinking about writing here about him for a couple of weeks now. I rented Superman II, considering the first is one of my favorite movies, and early in the second film, the first time Clark Kent turns into a Superman, he runs into an alley, pulling his shirt open, revealing the S emblazoned across his chest. It's a small moment, but Reeve is breathtakingly graceful as he runs. It's beautiful. In that moment, I felt my gripes with him give way, melt away.

And now Dana Reeve has died of lung cancer. There's a legend about a curse following whoever plays Superman: the Reeve's; George Reeves, who played the 1950's tv Superman, committed suicide; Richard Pryor, starring in the third movie, had MS; and Dean Cain, well, I guess his curse is to be Dean Cain.

At any rate, I guess my point is that I've been feeling grateful of late: that winter is over; that in a year in which I've had to resign from a new job and kill my second book, a pretty striking run of crappy luck if you're asking me, I still feel pretty good about things, which is a kind of victory, however small.


C. Dale said...

Victory is victory. It is never small.

A. J. Patrick Liszkiewicz said...

Too, your first book is worth two books, in my book.

... I think that made sense...

Paul said...

Thanks, guys.

Wendy Wisner said...

You're the best.

Penultimatina said...

Christopher Reeve has been on my mind, too (I teach disability studies to undergrads, and I'm planning an MFA course on poetry of the body). It always puzzles me how hard it is for some folks to understand the flaws in the ad you mentioned, no matter how long I lecture against the exclusively medical model of disability.

Sorry I missed you at AWP, Paul!

Glenn Ingersoll said...

Winter is over? But there was just a massive crack up in Marin County because of snow!

Ah well! Spring it, baby. Spring it on us.

Paul said...

Sorry I missed you too, Mary. Next year? I'll be in Atlanta.