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Loving My Partner -- and His Cerebral Palsy

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Loving Evan is easy. Loving cerebral palsy has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Right now he’s sitting in a rehab facility an hour away after having surgery on his foot. He’s in pain, he’s uneasy, he’s scared, and I can’t be there. When he heals, he’ll be able to walk better and he’ll be able to wear his fancy Italian loafers.

Evan is one-in-a-million.

He’s kind, sweet, intelligent, and pretty much everything I’ve ever wanted in a partner. But when we met, I had no idea what it would be like. How could I? I had no idea what it would be like to be the partner of someone so amazing, so inspiring, so sarcastic.

Evan’s CP doesn’t hold him back. What holds him back are the perceptions.

When we’re out together I’m either his friend or his caretaker, but hardly ever his girlfriend. People talk about him in a high voice, with childish words, looking honestly for a smile, but receiving stunned silence in return. I never know what to do or how to react. Oftentimes I want to turn and scream, red-faced and at the top of my lungs. But really, I just want them to understand.

Perceptions can be harmful, even when someone’s trying to be kind. But perceptions keep Evan in his chair, out of the way, and confined to being nothing more than what they see.

But Evan is incredible. He musters strength every day when I often struggle. He wants to run for the school board when we finally buy a home together, and eventually run for a higher office. He has a degree in psychology and when he was on campus, he used to wheel himself an hour to class every day.

Evan and I share a love of music and travel, two of the things we talked about in our first phone call. When I saw Evan for the first time, I was taken aback, not comfortable in my own skin enough to realize the person sitting before me would be the man I would fall in love with.

He would be my knight in shining armor.

Evan first told me he could give me something no other man could, and he was right. He was referring to the love he was capable of giving, something unmatched by any other man I’ve known. Only the breadth of my love could equal his. But there was something I was not prepared for as I started to fall in love. It was the fact that I would have to learn to love Evan’s CP as much as I loved him.

The CP is always there with us. It’s manifested into a wheelchair, heavy and black, that comes with us everywhere. I’ve broken it a few times, treating it as a hunk of metal and not an extension of the man I love. It’s hurt me a few times, reminding me it will always be there. But at some point we made a truce, as we sat together and I maneuvered the wheels back and forth.

I understood at that moment that it helped Evan, supported him, and enabled him to become the man he is today.

So as he sits far away from me I realize how much I have learned, how much I still have left to learn. I am surprised at all the ways that Evan is hindered; by our physical world, by our collective emotional intelligence, and by our misconceptions.

When we walk together, I hope people see us as equals, partners in this life. I hope they love him as much as I do, and learn to love his CP as much as, or more than, I do.

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Originally published: May 24, 2017
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