Tim GilmerIn April I took a trip to California for a number of reunions, but the one that surprised me the most was when I reunited with myself.

If you have lived the dual life that comes with spinal cord injury or a similar condition, you know how you can run into your “other” self when you go back in time. On this trip I visited friends I met 40 years ago, attended my 50-year high school reunion, and reunited with others I had known for over 60 years. Since I was injured at 20 and had not seen some of these people since then, there were a lot of awkward handshakes.

My wife Sam and I flew into San Jose to see Bob and Deb, who we befriended when we first moved to southern Oregon in our hippie days. These were close friends we got crazy with back in the early 1970s. We picked up right where we had left off, drinking margaritas (but no more smoking pot), talking and laughing nonstop. In those hippie days we rafted, sailed and camped together, and my wheelchair was invisible. Deb and Sam would carry me down to the wild Rogue River, each grabbing a skinny leg, and toss me into the icy water. One time Bob wheelied me across an old swinging rope bridge — with planks missing — above white water. We thought nothing of risking our lives in pursuit of good times.

By contrast, reuniting with another friend on this trip — someone I had known since childhood — transported me back to a moment when my wheelchair was considered an embarrassment. Not to him, but to his mother, who took me aside and told me at his wedding reception a few years after my injury: “You know, you would have been in my son’s wedding, maybe even best man, had you not been paralyzed.”

There it was — the attitude we have all encountered — th