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Just Ducky

Once upon a time there was a soft fuzzy yellow stuffed duck toy in a toy store in Pennsylvania. The toy store had a long row of bins full of stuffed animals of all kinds; there were dogs and cats, lizards and ostriches, lions and tigers, llamas and elephants, each animal sorted into its own bin with a sign overhead.
Every day children would come to the toy store with their grownups, but although he was often played with, nobody seemed to want a plain yellow duck. One day he was left on the floor by a little boy and the toy store assistant, who was in a hurry to close the store, absent-mindedly stuffed him into the wrong bin while bickering with her boyfriend on her cell phone. After a little early apprehension he settled in and enjoyed visiting with his antipodean neighbors the platypuses, but he couldn’t help feeling a little out of place. After all, he was yellow, not brown. He had wings and only two webbed feet, not four. He had a pointy tail, not a flat one. But they did have beaks and webbed feet in common and they both liked swimming in ponds and eating shellfish and freshwater shrimp, so in the end they found that they had a lot to talk about.
The next day just after the toy store opened a stooped-over little old lady stopped at the platypus bin. She had huge glasses and wiry white hair that stuck out in tufts. She peered up at the sign that said “Platypuses”, and down at the bin. She looked up at the sign again. She looked down at the bin. She couldn’t quite see the brown platypuses against the brown bin, but she could vaguely see the little yellow duck so she picked him out and bought him. She carried him home, wrapped him in festive wrapping paper, put him in a box with some other stuffed animals and some chocolate and other good things, and express mailed them to her granddaughters in Texas for Easter.
He was not very happy in the box with only some stuffed bunnies to talk to, but in no time he arrived at our house. Big Sister, Medium-sized Sister, and Little Sister opened the box in front of the computer as their Grandmother watched and listened over a webcam. Well, Grandmother mostly listened because she was getting old and didn’t see very well any more. Well, truth be known, she mostly talked because she didn’t actually listen very well. Her hearing was excellent,
in fact she often claimed she could hear a pin drop across the room, so Daddy often said she was “hard of listening”, not “hard of hearing”.
Little Sister unwrapped the duck and was entranced! She loved him on sight. “Oh Grandmother!” she cried, “Thank you so much for the duck!”, for she was a polite child. She held the duck up to the web camera gleefully and hugged him so her Grandmother could see how much she loved him.
“Wait a minute, wait a minute”, said Grandmother coldly in a very loud and imperious voice. “It’s not a duck, it’s a platypus.”
“It’s a duck!” insisted Little Sister in a very gay voice. “It’s yellow.”
“It’s a platypus”, snapped Grandmother crossly.
“Look, it has two webbed feet and two wings, and it has the most adorable little duckie tail”, insisted Little Sister in a happy voice.
“I tell you, it’s a platypus!” shouted Grandmother in her no-nonsense voice, frowning severely out of the computer screen.
“Grandmother, it’s a duck! Look!” laughed the little girl, waving it in front of the web camera and laughing.
“It’s a platypus”, said Grandmother testily. “It said so on the sign!”
Daddy laughed so hard that he fell off his chair. He wasn’t sure if it was a Duck Billed Platyduck, a Platypus Billed Duck, or a Duck Billed Duck. Little Sister didn’t care much what he called it. She slept with it anyway.
The first part of this story, about how the duck got put into the platypus bin, is made up but probably ought to be true in any reasonable kind of universe. The rest of the story is true.
It reminds me of how people with MS are often treated. The duck represents a person with MS. The platypuses represent people who don’t have MS. Like the ducks and the platypuses, people with MS have things in common with everybody else but we are different in ways that shouldn’t be overlooked. The Grandmother represents people who refuse acknowledge our duckhood, to see the ways that MS affects our lives, and insist that we are just platypuses.
What people with MS need is not to be overestimated, not to be underestimated, but to be recognized for what we are. We may not have the right number of webbed feet, nor the correct kind of tail, but we need people like the Little Sister who look at us with humor, accept us for what we are, and sleep with us anyway.www.multiplesclerosissucks.me
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