Monica Sucha Vickers was born in 1954, her parents’ first child. Their love for her overcame the shock they experienced when they saw that she was severely handicapped.
Born without legs and missing her right arm, Vickers was probably a “thalidomide baby,” although her mother’s medical records are mysteriously lacking the proof of that speculation. Advised by doctors to institutionalize their tiny daughter, her parents took her home instead, and, without discussing their secret sorrows, they raised Monica with courage and without barriers.
Her father pushed her to try new things—navigating stairs and participating in sports. Initially sent to a special needs school, she complained that she was out of place there, so she was transferred to typical schooling.
In college she and a roommate took a long trip out west in the author’s hand-controlled auto, inspiring her to move from the Midwest of her birth with its icy winters to sunny California. She became an expert medical transcriptionist, typing twice as fast with one hand as most of her co-workers could with two. It was here she met and eventually married a construction engineer who designed special office space for her home business. Together they happily entertained their large extended families.
After her rather sheltered upbringing, the author gradually saw that the world can be cold and hurtful to people with handicaps; she speaks out boldly on that subject. She states that her grandmother, who taught her to bake, prepare fresh garden veggies, ride a tricycle, even sew and embroider, provided the impetus for this memoir. Her grandmother was, and still is, her hero.
Vickers writes with a rare combination of gusto and aptly chosen phrasing, reflecting her own spirited but well-planned approach to life’s adversities, of which she has had more than her fair share. Her prose is plain and her observations frank, showing her creative talent along with the ability to objectify her experience in an unusually balanced manner.
The book contains many photographs showing not only the extent of her disabilities, especially in early childhood, but also the means she has used to overcome them over the course of her tough but courageous life: the heavy but cosmetically sculpted artificial legs, the various wheelchairs, her hand-operated car, her athleticism as a swimmer, her unconventional but very effective typing method. Here, Vickers admonishes readers about what not to do and say to handicapped and wheelchair bound persons is especially enlightening and edifying.
Avoiding any temptation towards bitterness, especially in the matter of the probable cause of her disabilities, Vickers has boldly included numerous honest appraisals penned by family members and friends about growing up with and knowing her. This willingness to see herself as others see her sometimes brings her back to the awareness of the adage, “People will see your disability before they see you,” a hard lesson that took her a long time to absorb.
This is an important memoir that serves to bridge a gap between people of all shapes and sizes – no matter what their condition. An honest and courageous chronology of a life that truly deserves to be called “extraordinary.” Monica can be reached via her Facebook page or her website, which is listed at the top of this review.