Although it is now unclear what precisely caused President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s paralysis, he was essentially unable to use his legs after the age of 39.
As everyone knows, he did this a little of this, a little of that, and also World War II after his illness struck. Say what you want to about the man, but he was no sniveler. This is an unavoidable conclusion that anyone would draw after visiting the FDR Presidential Library & Museum*, which is on the grounds of what was his home in Hyde Park, NY.
For instance, the photo above is of the driveway that leads to FDR’s house. (I was standing several hundred yards from the front steps when I took this picture.) This is where FDR performed his own form of physical therapy — crutching from the house to the road and back. Apparently he was never quite able to make it, but still.
A couple of years ago, I had ankle surgery and found myself quite exhausted crutching from my couch to the kitchen. This was in a Manhattan apartment, the distance was hardly vast. And I had the advantage of one working leg. And yet, I invested a great deal of mental energy into devising ways to not have to leave the couch, a large number of words were directed at my husband to gather many contingency piles of supplies around me before he went to work in the morning, and all the while I generally felt sorry for myself. It’s a good thing no one was counting on me to defeat Hitler.
*Although the museum is in the midst of major renovations, which will be completed next summer, there’s still plenty to see.
Alison J. Stein
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