Dan, Ed Roberts, considered to be the father of the Independent Living Movement and Bob
Bob with Governor Earl and Joyce Pomo
Once upon a time there were three great friends, they had similarities and differences, as all good friends do, but mostly they had great adventures. Each had become a Quadriplegic under different circumstances. There may be better ways to describe this transition, but the reality is that they each excelled at being Quads, much the way Aaron Rogers excels at being a quarterback. Sorry, Bob was not a football fan so I had to say that. They each experienced different accidents; Al, the eldest, diving, under the influence in shallow water (he had already raised one family); Dan, the middle child, at wrestling tryouts, practicing takedowns, in High School; and Bob, shot in the neck by a friend who was “playing” around with a gun, also in high school.
This could be a very sad story, except that it isn’t. They all became forces to be reckoned with in the Disability Rights Movement. Al passed away a few years back but not before he had made his mark, raising awareness where it was needed. He fought for alcohol and other drug abuse services for people with physical disabilities and offered his services by speaking to high school students about the dangers of drinking and driving and/or diving. He was already a parent but became an even better grand and great-grand parent.
Dan, having been a quad the longest (not that anyone was counting), became an advocate for people with disabilities, co-founder of an Independent Living Center, family man, grandfather and the last to get his driver’s license.
Bob too made his mark in the Independent Living Movement as a service provider and as an advocate. Access to Independence was where he did some of his best work, well except for his card playing and Trivial Pursuit. He and Al could drive, they had accessible vans and they all enjoyed recreational shopping, one or the other would pick up Dan (who as yet could not drive), and Quad Cabs was born. Shopping usually involved lunch and several hours, at first all three in one van. As the vans got smaller and wheelchairs got bigger, they had to travel in two vans.
Many years ago, possibly 1983, the Quads decided to go to Washington D.C. for a National Council on Independent Living Conference. Bob had the van, it had a lift but no joystick (not invented yet) and somehow we decided we needed to drive straight through. Six people, three in big power wheelchairs, luggage and all the “stuff” we needed, jammed into a van. The only one’s who got out were the three wives/partners, one to pump gas, another to empty leg bags, and one to feed the captives. There were a lot of jaw dropping expressions as we repeated this procedure again and again. Sound dreadful? Absolutely the most fun I have ever had on a road trip!
Bob was the most entertaining of course, he would get “weak in the knees”, his explanation of this phenomenon was so funny that we were entertained by it the rest of the trip, suffice it say the outcome could have been disastrous and odorous, which made it all the funnier (you had to be there). Bob was also a fairly tall guy, not so much taller sitting, just legs that went out a long way. When he laughed really hard he would literally double over and need to “suck wind” to right himself, which only made everyone laugh more.
While in DC he and Teri had an excursion into the Subway, because someone (Dan) told them how great it was and they just had to try it. We took the van back from dinner in Dupont Circle or possibly Georgetown and Bob and Teri entered the subway. Several hours later they returned to the hotel having experienced several elevator “out of order” signs and after being convinced they should ascend via escalator (a two story monstrosity) only to have it break down half way through the journey. A cell phone would have been nice, also not invented yet. Bob retold that story many times over the years and it got funnier every time.
The Quad Cabs crew went camping, that always involved a lot of card playing and hiking. They all carried copious amounts of firewood, sometimes dragging entire branches behind their chairs, connecting tarps to keep the rain away from the card games (most of the time). We started doing Foster Care, Bob and Teri made Ben (sorry Ben), Al reconnected with the love of his life and our lives got infinitely more complicated. Most of us continued to camp, just not together all the time.
Bob and Al, Best Friends Forever . . .
They each had their brushes with death, so very close, so many times but, they had many more adventures. To say that they have each lived a full life would be an understatement. Dan is left to carry on the spirit of Quad Cabs, and like Al, Bob will be missed. It is painful for those close to him now, in time his spirit will once again remind us of how much pure joy he shared with the people he came into contact with.
I promised that this wasn’t a sad story and it isn’t. Bob was so much fun, and he knew how to push buttons (which he often did). Those card games were more about the fun than the cards. Bob/Teri introduced us to Hot Cocoa with a scoop of Ice Cream, still the best way to do it. Bob and Al had an answer for every question in Trivial Pursuit, it was, Johnny Horton. One time, to everyone’s surprise, they were actually right. We all laughed so hard.