Saturday, September 7, 2013

"Attitudes are the only Disability"

My AMAZING UNCLE, Mr. Robert M. Zito, passed away on the morning of Sunday, August 26, 2012, just a little over 1 year ago.

Today, September 7th, would have been his 63rd birthday.

I have promised myself, that I would not forget, and that I will continue to share his amazing story.   One way we are doing that, I am happy to say, is with a yearly scholarship awarded in his name and memory, at his High School Alma Matter.  We presented the first of what we hope will be many awards, this past May, to a young lady who will be going into the nursing field.

I will share his story every year, to celebrate and remember his life on his birthday. May it provide you with inspiration....

My AMAZING UNCLE, Robert Zito, passed away on August 26, 2012, at the age of 61.  He had been in a wheelchair for 47 years, since he broke his neck in a backyard swimming pool accident, at the age of 15.

Even though his injury defined him as a quadriplegic, he never considered himself disabled or handicapped.

With just partial use and strength in his arms, and the use of just one finger on each hand, he was able to accomplish so many things.

Some things that those of us with the full use of our arms, legs, hands and fingers, would never be able to do, and do on a daily basis.

He drove a 2 door car -before there were handicap vans, and pushed himself in his wheelchair, before there were power chairs.  He would transfer himself by sliding from his chair, to a board, and then into the passenger seat of his car. He would then fold up his chair, put it in the back seat behind him, and slide himself all the way over to the driver's seat, and off he'd go, using hand controls.

We were not allowed to help him - we had to stand there and watch him - He had to do it all on his own.

He graduated from Hawthorne High School with his class in 1968, and then from The Newark School of Fine and Industrial Arts. He was a gifted artist. 

He went on to learn computer programming and got a job in New York City, with Met Life as a graphic artist. He drove into the city every day, parked his car, and worked in the Met Life Building, until he was transferred to the Lebanon, NJ area about 15 years ago.  He got married and had a son.

All of this with just the partial use of his arms and 2 fingers.
He touched so many lives by just being Bob.  Just a guy, who happened to be in a wheelchair. He never felt sorry for himself, or complained.  His favorite T-shirt said "Attitudes are the only Disability."
He had a way to make people forget about the wheelchair - he never let it define him -he never let it stop him.
He was a strong man who was put to so many tests. Weaker men would have given up long ago. He lived a very full and wonderful life, until his body got the best of him over his last 5 years or so, which were spent in and out of hospitals. Even after he lost a leg from the hip down due to bed sore complications almost 3 years ago, he kept on going. He was even doing community service, helping senior citizens use computers at his local library up until 2 months before he died.

So I ask you, please remember my Uncle Bob and go through life ignoring and overcoming your "disabilities"  - however big or small they may be - don't say you can't do something - have strength and try your best to overcome adversity and reach your goals.  
He was a crazy, funny man who loved life, and loved us. Besides asking for "Spirit in the Sky," "Born to be Wild," and "Magic Carpet Ride," to be played at his wake, he also asked that we BE HAPPY.

So I will ask you, please remember my Uncle Bob and go through life ignoring your "disabilities" - however big or small they may be - don't say you can't do something - have strength and try your best to overcome or reach your goals, and most of all Be Happy.

He fought a good fight, but now it is his turn to rest and no longer struggle. He leaves a hole in our lives, but has filled our hearts with love, laughter and wonderful memories.

This is one of my favorite photos of him, my Mom and I. It was taken in April 2012.

I LOVE YOU and MISS YOU Uncle Bob, I will NEVER forget you, and I will  always try to be strong like you and live by your example.  Thank you for being in our lives.  ((HUGS)) ~ Sherri