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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The asthmatic versus the bully

This asthmatic was short for his age, skinny, and, like many asthmatics with lots of allergies, walked with hunched shoulders, red eyes & drippy nose. He was also reticent and, like Danielle, a Canadian college student with asthma, was not open about his asthma.

He tried to be normal, to fit in, but he was easy pickings for bullies or anyone looking to improve his image. If you wanted to be seen as a tough guy, all you had to do was walk over to that Rick Frea kid and threaten to whack him.

That's how it was for the asthmatic during recess. He also struggled in gym class. Although he

never quit, he sometimes had to sit out the class. He missed quite a few days of school due to asthma, but received no sympathy for it (didn't want sympathy either).

Surely teachers knew of his asthma, but made little effort to help him. They probably didn't know what to do -- unlike teachers today. Or perhaps they didn't recognize what was going on. In retrospect, the later seems more likely.

Pretty much this is how it was. Halfway through the 8th grade in 1983, after science class, on the crowded stairwell, someone punched Rick on the shoulder. This happened several days in a row.

The first few times it happened he brushed it off. One day, however, he was in a crummy mood, and decided to figure out who it was and punish him. He finally had it with the bullies.

The next day he paid attention, and when the pain from the punch shot down his left arm, he turned quickly and saw tall, lean, mean Jim Crab with an evil grin on his face. Your dead! "he thought through gritted teeth.

The next day he suruptitiously followed Jim, and paid attention to what classes Crab went to and at which times. He took his punishment like a man that day, and when he turned there was Crab again with that evil grin. I got you now!

The next day, after Geometry, Rick stood and waited for Jim to come up the stairs.

It was a pristine moment. Like in horror flicks, even though it was the middle of a busy school day, Crab and Rick were alone. The other kids were already in their seats waiting for the bell to ring.

Rick stood audaciously (or crazily, depending on how you look at it) grimacing up at the tall bully and decided that if he was going to go down, it would only be after landing a punch.

"It was you!" Rick Frea snarled, years of anger pent up in three words. His fingers tensed and curled up. "I've had it with you guys."

"I enjoyed it, Frea," he scowled. "I hate you!"

Feeding on those words, Rick pulled his right arm back as far as he could, slightly cocking his body in that direction and, with all the force he could muster, whipped his arm forward, fist connecting firmly on the bully's left cheek.

Crab never flinched, but tears dripped from his eyes. Surprisingly, he did not return a punch. Rick took advantage of this and drew back his arm and swung once more as hard as he could.


He was about to hit the Crab again, when Rick heard Crab cry: "Frea, I'm going to get you for this! I hate you!" But he didn't hit Rick back. He left!

"Yeah!" Rick roared and pumped his fist. Until heI looked around and realized that no one saw the victory. It didn't matter, because Rick would live this moment in replay for years to come, savoring it, daring any bully to mess with him again. No one ever did, not even Crab.

As with most bully-bullied situations, it happened because the kids didn't understand each other. What Crab and the other kids did not know was that it's perfectly normal for an asthmatic to be small for his age, and to have a runny and drippy nose due to allergies, and that it's perfectly normal for an asthmatic to want to keep the asthma hidden -- although not necessarily wise.

Thankfully, asthma wisdom has improved immensely since the asthmatic's angst with bullies 25 years ago. With a good Asthma Action plan, & parents & teachers tuned into it, no asthmatic should ever have to struggle with the Jim Crab's of the world. Although I'm sure, it still happens.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Rick, I love your story-telling. Love how you stood up to the bully.
And, thank you for the mention!