strong-arm (strawng-ahrm)
using, involving, or threatening the use of physical force or violence to gain an objective
to use violent methods upon, assault
to rob by force
to coerce by threats or intimidation, bully

Once a friend asked if I was afraid Jacob was going to hurt me. A fair question. My answer, “I’m more afraid I’m going to hurt him.”

I clearly remember being in junior high school and not wanting to walk past the special education classroom. I imagine most of you, if you’re honest, would say you had similar feelings, too, at one time or another. They were different from me. I was way more nervous and afraid than I should have been. The not knowing and understanding created uncertainty. Not being around them created unmerited fear.

I KNOW Jacob. I know he isn’t going to rare back and hammer me with his fist. Or throw a chair at me. Yes, he has accidentally hurt me. Once we were practically wrestling trying to get him to stay in the bedroom and go to bed. In the darkness of his room, he reached for me as I was moving toward him and his finger found my eye! I’ll spare you the painful details and not share the creepy picture, but, it hurt like crazy and it looked even worse. Imagine me trying to convince the MEA physician that my adult son had poked me in the eye. And that it was strictly an accident!

I’ve mentioned before about guys and gals that attend his day program being afraid of Jacob. It stings but it is their reality and I definitely get it. He has scared them one too many times by grabbing at them. Not hitting or being aggressive. But it can feel like an attack from a bully and can definitely make anyone uncomfortable.

Jacob isn’t a big fellow. I am continually thankful to God that he isn’t over 6’ tall like his brother. We celebrated when his weight hit 110 pounds. But, no kidding, his strength is deceiving!! Just ask the kind dental staff when he goes for a check up twice a year!!

I have often used the term ‘strong-arming me’ when I’m describing Jacob. Whether it is getting him dressed, shaving his handsome face, brushing his teeth, you name it; he will grab my forearms and lock his and it is really difficult to do a thing! I have had bruises on my arms from the supernatural strength in his fingers. I know. I know. It can’t be that hard to break free. It is. It just is. Remember, I don’t want to turn ninja and hurt him!

One morning I was in his room and sure enough, strong-armed. The TV was on and I don’t know whether it was a news feature or a regular show but it was about a family who had several adopted children with severe physical disabilities. THREE of them had no arms. It was inspiring to see how they had overcome such tremendous hardships. I was convicted right then and there. To be thankful Jacob has arms he can use that serve him well. And that he is strong.

“I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet” .

Helen Keller

Puts things into perspective when you stop and think, right?

I am not afraid of Jacob but am concerned that the reflex of my initial response could injure him. After all, no one wants to have a finger jabbed in their eye. I mainly want to just diffuse a situation to redirect him and make sure neither of us gets hurt.

strong-arm (strông′ärm′)
“Leave me alone.”
“Don’t straighten my shorts!”
“Stop that!”
I don’t want that for breakfast.”
“I’m not ready.”
“Don’t touch me.”

-Jacob Pigford

He uses what he has to communicate and strong-arming is a language we both understand.


4 thoughts on “Strong-Arm

  1. Wonderful imagery here. You described this so well. With your Helen Keller quote, I remembered from my own youth: My little Sunday best dress was from the clothes closet at school. My little black patent leather shoes had a half dollar-size hole in the sole. As I walked across a wooden bridge at my Aunt’s home in Coila, MS, a girl (about my size and age) was crossing from the other direction. She looked me over and said, “Your shoes are so pretty.” Then I looked at her feet. There were no shoes. This life lesson has gone with me for over 70 years. There is always someone worse off than we are. Blessings to you and Jacob. (Eat your Wheaties so you will grow strong!”)


  2. Thank you for being so transparent. Jacob is definitely one strong dude. It’s a challenge to figure what he is saying with his actions. That’s the language of Jacob.


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