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Shout-Out To All The “Secret Old People” Out There!

, , , , | Learning | January 9, 2022

I worked as a tutor in my mid-twenties at the same time that I was starting to experience symptoms of chronic illness. As I was trying to find ways to adapt to my disability, I would occasionally have kids ask about what was going on. One student, a third-grader, was especially curious.

Student: “Why are you using that really fat pen?”

Me: “I have something called arthritis, where my hands hurt when I have to hold things that are small for too long. The big pen makes it easier for me.”

Student: “I thought that was something old people got, like my grandma. You’re not an old lady!”

Me: *Jokingly* “Oh, you got me. I’m actually a secret old lady.”

When I started wearing compression gloves, the same student wanted to know why.

Student: “Why are you wearing those weird gloves?”

Me: “Well, you know how I told you my hands hurt sometimes when I write?”

Student: “’Cause you’re a secret old lady?”

Me: “Um, right. These help with my hands, too.”

One day, I showed up to work with a cane. It was a big deal to me; I’d been hoping for months that I’d find the right medication before I needed to start relying on mobility aids.

The third-grader was in the lobby when I walked in and gaped at me.

Student: “Why do you have a cane?”