It’s that time of year where I have the full-time duty of running things in our pro shop. My backups are back in Tucson so between 10-5, I greet every person who rolls up Sandy Point Lane. And we’ve had our share of colorful characters.
It is I who spends most of the time behind the counter anyway; however, it’s especially pronounced during these dog days of summer. And August has been busy.
We’ve had a lot of first-timers on the course in the past few weeks and this is always fun. I love watching disc golfers’ reactions to a true disc golf pro shop, with more discs in one place than they’ve ever seen. And I don’t mind explaining the layout and policies of the course—even if I have already done it a dozen times that day.
Today we had several large groups, including one family with six kids. After paying green fees and listening to my instructions, the dad asked if one in his group could hang around the pro shop and grounds while they played, because she was in a wheelchair and wouldn’t be able to maneuver the course. Of course, that was not a problem for me.
As I tended to other customers, visitors and resort guests, I saw the wheelchair stationed on the front porch, and in it sat a young woman with a book in her lap. Then finally, when things cleared out a little in the shop she ventured inside and struck up a conversation with me.
“It was getting hot out there,” she said.
It was getting hot inside, too. I felt the humidity levels rising all afternoon.
She parked next to my chair by the counter and asked a few questions typical of most visitors, and I assured her I had no problem with her hanging around. She was very pretty, with auburn hair and brown eyes, and she had an absolute confidence about her that immediately impressed me. I couldn’t help but notice the strength in her arms and shoulders and scanned down to her contrarily underdeveloped legs.
“What, may I ask, is your disability? I hope you don’t mind . . .”
“No, not at all,” she said without hesitation. “I was born with spina bifida . . . it’s a developmental disorder . . .”
I stopped her. “Yes, I know what it is. I’ve had two children. And learning about it was part of the process.”
Her name is Danielle, and she goes by Dani. When I told her my name was Michele, she said that was her mom’s name. “One L or two?” I asked.
“One,” she said.
“Me too!” High five.
She’s 16 and about to start her junior year of high school, just like my daughter, Willow. Again, high five. And like Willow, Dani is quite an athlete.
In addition to playing club basketball where she travels from state-to-state for tournaments, she also races for her high school track team and has records in the 400 and 800-meter wheelchair races. She is considering throwing shot put in her next season, and has aspirations to race in the Paralympic games.
Dani told me she has never been able to walk on her own, although at one point she did have braces that enabled her walk. Ultimately, however, they became too cumbersome, so she opted for the chair.
She has a few chairs—each with a purpose—including racing, basketball, everyday use, etc.).
We talked about swimming and scuba diving and I told her about my freshman year of college when I lived in a community that was heavily populated with students in wheelchairs. “We called them “Wheelies,” I said. And she smiled and nodded. “It was a real learning experience for me to find out that kids in wheelchairs were just like me except that they couldn’t walk.”
Dani then told me that one of things she dislikes the most is when people feel sorry for her. She said since she was born with the disability, it’s all she’s ever known. And it was very clear to me that she has not allowed it to be a “handicap.” Clearly, she has found a way to assimilate and thrive.
On a day where many people came and went, Danielle was by far, my most interesting visitor today. At first I wished our disc golf course was a more wheelchair-friendly, so she could have enjoyed the experience with her family; however, what a reward it was for me to get to spend a little time getting to know her.