My Granddad, Woody Higgins

by Danielle Noble from Dongguan in China

When I was little, I looked up to my granddad (both literally and figuratively). I would often stay with him and Nana on school holidays, which are some of my best memories. Granddad would take me on his long daily walks, take me swimming, and tell me tales of giant monster squirrels who roamed the neighborhood. Even back then, I knew that we were birds of a feather who loved to read, and walk, and just be quiet together. However, there was something about Granddad that was different from everybody else I knew, even though I didn't notice it much at first - it was just a part of him. His spine was fused together, and he couldn't turn his head or bend his back at all. His back was always ramrod straight.

I didn't understand this much until I turned nine years old, and suddenly developed a disease called "spondyloarthritis" that caused my knee to swell up to the size of a grapefruit for no reason. It was then I learned that the disease I had was the same as Granddad's. Since scientists believe that spondyloarthritis is caused by a certain gene, it can be passed down to family members, and I just happened to be the one in my family who got it. At first, I was very scared. Even though it wasn't in my back yet, the doctors told me it could spread. I wondered if one day I would be like Granddad, not able to move my spine. I was put on a lot of medicine, and had to go to physical therapy and many doctor's appointments. I didn't like what was happening to me.

But as I watched Granddad, I felt less scared. Granddad never complained about his spine, and he never let it stop him from doing what he loved. He drove in the car to pick me up and take me to his house. He wrote on his computer and read all the books in his office and the ones we got from the library. He played golf and table tennis with Nana and me. He exercised and walked for at least an hour every day. He ate tons of fruit and vegetables to keep himself healthy. When I got older, he took me camping, and we would spend days out in the woods, sleeping in tents and hiking along the mountain trails, unafraid and free. He never let his disease stop him or keep him down, but took care of himself and did what he wanted to do. Watching him helped me conquer my fear. If Granddad could do it, so could I. 

Even now, I look up to Granddad. The disease is in my spine, and sometimes I get angry or cry because I'm still afraid of what might happen in the future. But then I think of Granddad, my hero, the person I want to be like. I think of him working hard every day to do what he loves, and then I get up and exercise or eat something healthy, and hope that he would be proud of me. It's true that we are birds of a feather in more ways than one, and I hope that one day I can be just like him.

Page created on 6/26/2021 3:42:10 AM

Last edited 6/28/2021 10:38:24 PM

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