October 25, 2011

Tards

Sometime in the last century, during the time of my youth, "tard" was a derogatory term that was short for "retarded".  It was specifically reserved for someone who definitely was not retarded.  I'm not what you would call "politically correct" by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm also not one to consciously piss people off for something as little as an easily avoided word or phrases.

That being said, this blog post title was deliberately chosen to entice you to read this post.  Well, to continue to read this post.

Today I had to go to Fred Meyer for a quick health screening for our insurance and I noticed a couple of retarded kids at the store.  Hard to miss a kid wearing a helmet.  They were with another kid, I'd say high school aged.  As I check out there is another high schooler and another mentally challenged kid, along with an adult.

OK, I figure there must be a class outing or some such.

Since I had to fast for my screening, I'm famished.  There is a Wendy's across the parking lot to help me take care of this rumbling in my belly.  At Wendy's there are a fair number of high school kids including a couple more mentally challenged folks and a couple of adults.  The kid to adult ratio is pretty high.  This definitely has to be some sort of class event, but it doesn't feel like one to me.  I'm amazed at how normal everything seems to be.  It's more of an adult normal.  I'm pretty much used to seeing groups of high schoolers act pretty stupid...the larger the group, the worse their behavior can be.  These kids were pretty sedate.

I found the whole experience kind of cool.  When I was in high school the special ed kids were pretty much separated from the other kids and those times they were integrated they were largely ignored.  I can remember a whopping two actual interactions with one of the few special ed kids we had.  For the sake of this post I'll call him "Biff".  I never went to school or have even met a person met Biff, so I feel comfortable using that name.

Biff wasn't in any regular classes with other students, or at least none that I'm aware of.  If not for seeing his picture in our school yearbook I doubt I'd remember we were in the same grade, much less school.  I'm not sure, but I think he entered school a year before me so he would have been on the five year plan to be a senior the same year I was.  As someone who took 15 years to finish his first bachelor's degree, I think Biff is doing a pretty decent job.

My class got to have a Senior school trip where we went skiing at one of the few ski slopes in Iowa.  I suck at skiing, but I'm one of the few members of my class that had been skiing multiple times before.  As such, I had no problems getting ready to hit the slopes.  A rather cute girl in my class was having problems with her boots so I helped her out.  Biff was right beside her and was having the same difficulty.  She asked for my help, I'm not sure if Biff did or not, but either way it wasn't a big deal.  I helped him out and asked if he was "cool".  Thanks, yep...and he clumsily clomped away.  There is no graceful way to walk around in ski boots, especially your first time.  I remember looking up and seeing the Principle staring at me.  It was a bit spooky since it was like he was looking through me.  The rest of that trip....well that trip went very bad later that day, but it is another story that probably won't be told since I was a just a bit player in that one.

The next spring when we were going through graduation prep I run into Biff again.  Unlike some of my readers, I did not go to a big school.  My class was the largest in a decade at a whopping 120ish seniors.  We are all assembled in the gym and we're told that we have to choose partners to walk down the main aisle with and sit next to during the graduation ceremony.  All of the cool kids seem to have known about this before hand and people have already paired off.  Biff doesn't have anyone to walk with so I ask him if he'd walk with me.  I doubt that 22 years later anyone remembers much anything about that graduation other than the Valedictorian.  I remember that I walked with Biff and that I got to wear my National Honor Society sashy-thing and a set of honor cords my stepmother claimed as her own for some reason after the ceremony.

Believe me, I'm not some great guy for being nice to Biff these two times.  As far as I'm concerned the fact that it was Biff is merely coincidental.  It could have been anyone else and for all my other classmate interactions it was someone else.

When I saw these teenagers having a pretty normal afternoon at the store and at the burger joint it struck me how odd it really was because this was not what I had in school.  The self-realized irony was not that these few kids were retarded, but how much my own classmates were.  My classmates, I'm certain myself included, weren't all that nice to our mentally challenged students.  Hell, many were not nice to any of their classmates.  Some guys were just plain assholes.  Some of those assholes have eventually matured into pretty decent guys.  But back then, most of us were "limited in emotional development".

A lot of us were Tards.  It was nice to see today's teens in a much more favorable light.




re·tard·ed

adj, \ri-ˈtär-dəd\

Definition of RETARDED

: slow or limited in intellectual or emotional development or academic progress

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