My nickname is “Wheels”, acquired in senior year of high school when I was 17 in 1969 because I was the first in my group to have a car. Someone yelled out one day in school “Hey, Jim, do you have your wheels?” And it stuck, especially since I was an adventurous driver in my formative years.
Through my 20′s and 30′s alot of people only knew me by my nickname, and my good friends like Duck, Babushka and Hollywood, not to mention Skinny Johnny, referred to me that way regularly.
So here’s the ironic part – In 1995, September 11th to be exact, I was a 43 year old working on my old house in Wauwatosa, hoping to get an afternoon of house painting in before the onset of cold weather. Unfortunately, I was on a ladder up to the 2nd floor when the ladder gave way beneath me, causing me to fall, landing on my butt on a concrete sidewalk and crushing a vertebra. This led to complete paralysis from the navel down, and, of course, confinement to a wheelchair.
I still have the nickname of “Wheels”, but it’s not used as much anymore. But when it is, I chuckle inside and consider how now it has some real, although totally different, meaning. Because without my wheels, “Wheels” isn’t going anywhere.