I remember one of the first days I saw the entourage: I was at the gym, preparing for my workout with my other gym mates when a group of people walked in. There was a good-looking guy in dark sunglasses with his hand on another man’s shoulder. Following them was a camera man and then one or two more people who seemed to be scoping out the place. They set up in the corner and the guy with the glasses kept his shades on. People seemed to defer to him. He was dressed to workout but didn’t; rather, he watched the rest of us. Our coach didn’t introduce him or even acknowledge him. The gym had celebrities and elite athletes coming and going pretty regularly so I sort of forgot about it.
Then, I heard rumors that a guy who’d lost his leg and wore a prosthetic was starting to workout with us. I was incredulous when I saw him. He was learning how to do box jumps, power cleans, and could run! He was quiet but seemed nice enough. He mostly did private training with one of the coaches. I eventually learned that this same man who wore a prosthetic was planning to compete in “Adaptive Athlete” games. I didn’t even know this type of contest existed. And than I learned that he was blind. Whoa. Double whoa. That’s why he always wore the dark glasses. And this was the same person who had the prosthetic leg. I became curious about him.
As the months passed, the name “Corey Reed” was commonly spoken at the gym and among my friends. We saw him in passing at the gym, but didn’t really know him. When we’d complain about a workout, we were humbled by Corey Reed’s prowess. Then, watching him compete in the gym was awesome and I looked forward to meeting him personally. Everyone congratulated him for competing and doing really well, and he was typically humble and even shy. I learned about him through friends of friends and was still incredulous about his athletic ability because of his leg and prosthetic.
Over the next few years, I learned that Corey Reed got married and had a child. And then he and I became friends and I learned about his accident. When he was in his early twenties, he was involved in a drunk driving accident and the car he was riding in slammed into a tree, where he lost his vision almost immediately. The doctors had to amputate his leg in order to save him. The accident was nearly fatal, yet he survived. He’s told me stories about how it felt to learn from the doctors a few months after the accident that he would never see again.
When Corey and I became friends, I felt intimidated. I also realized that when I first noticed him at the gym, I semi-forgot about his blindness and concentrated primarily on his leg injury. He always had an entourage with him and it appeared that they were his eyes (I later learned about his involvement with a lifestyle brand called Ride With Core, so naturally, the crew came with him to capture his workouts and other aspects of life on film).
I’m sorry to admit this, but I was short-sighted when I initially saw Corey. I only saw the parts: blindness, amputee, guy in a documentary, adaptive athlete, husband, new father. It’s now that I’ve gotten to know him better that I experience him in totality. I know Corey to be someone who is both “normal” and also extraordinary. He’s a regular guy who likes to exercise, follow sports, listen to music loudly, watch his son start to walk, and spend time laughing with his loving and super-cool wife. He’s extraordinary because he listens well and I really feel seen and heard when we talk. I don’t think he’s special because he’s blind, but despite this.
I used to think I took the broad view, but now I know differently. My perspective has changed since spending time with Corey, and I’m not quite as short-sighted. I thought I was so open, but like everyone, I had preconceived notions about disability before spending time with him and his family. I’m embarrassed to admit that I was not sure whether he could do everyday things at home. I thought he’d have helpers at every turn. I thought he’d only talk about the accident and injuries. Boy was I wrong! Corey and his wife are supremely capable of everything. He talks about the accident when asked, and is gracious and curious when discussing everything else.
He’s been a teacher to me to listen a little more and see with my heart, rather than just with my eyes.
To learn more about Corey Reed, please visit www.ridewithcore.com.
Visit my website at Coaching By Nina Rubin.
Yesterday’s post was about Remembering High School Memories.