It’s been 3 weeks and 3 days. I take on challenges in the same way Donnie approached life. I start with appreciating what surrounds me. My friends and family and the gift I have to be creative. I read and reread, my son, DJ’s words. I ponder colors. And after I choose, I reflect on the story they tell.
by DJ Saltigerald
I’ve learned through this process that you don’t always realize how someone has impacted your life until something like this
happens and you spend time to reflect and so thinking about Donnie I’ve seen how deep threaded aspects of my life have their roots in my older brother…
Two of my favorite things in life, are sports and music and I can trace some of that love back to my early relationship with Donnie.From the Beastie Boys back when I was listening to rap music and then to my transition to bluegrass and outlaw country.
I liked what Donnie liked, and I was eager to share music I had found or tell experiences of live shows Id been to.
Being a first generation Kentuckian, my UK fandom wasn’t passed down from my father and his father before that. My love for UK came from my older siblings. Dana took me to my first football game, and Donnie. . . that’s what we had. . .we talked sports.
He gave me a blessing. . .and a curse. The blessing was UK sports. We constantly talked UK basketball and football and most of the games I went to was with him. People always talked about the loudest Rupp Arena was is when #1 Florida came to town and we ran them out of the gym. . .and I always think “I was at that game. . .”
I was at that game with Donnie
For a while, when I first moved home from California, I went on Wednesday nights to put him in bed, and that was my chance to catch up with him on UK and the NFL.
Speaking of the NFL. . .that was his curse. It’s because of him I’ve spent the last 27 years rooting for the Dallas Cowboys.
He tricked me with three Super Bowls in the early 90s and its been all down hill since.
But the Cowboys are my team, and they are my team because they were his team.
People always ask me, “Why do you like the Cowboys, your from KY?”
I tell them, “My older brother moved to Kentucky from
Texas when I was 11. I’ve been a Cowboys fan ever since.”
But you know, on a deeper level, the third way Donnie has impacted and influenced my life is by his spirit of endurance and perseverance and his fight.
Donnie endured a life changing accident and all that comes with that…surgeries, physical therapy, re-learning how to live and operate.
He persevered through to his independence…graduating from college, starting his own business, living on his own, driving himself where he needed to be…
and he fought hard to overcome any obstacle in front of him…
When he told me about people parking in handicapped spaces, blocking his accessibility…
He didn’t punch down, He punched up…
and through all that, while im sure he had his moments in
private, he never projected any self pity or a “woe is me” attitude.
To me, from the
beginning, it was as if he said, ”OK, this is the
situation, how do we
proceed from here and move foreward?”
Donnie defined his life in a wheel chair, his life in a wheel chair did not define him!
His attitude, and determination inspired me to look at any
situation I might be in and say the same thing as he did. “This is what Im dealing with, how do I move forward.”
But the thing about enduring…about persevering…about
it can ware you out…it can be exhausting…
and 20 years is a long time to fight…and Donnie was tired…
so….I don’t blame Donnie…
I’m not mad at Donnie…
I love Donnie…
and I miss