Dennis McLaughlin was born in 1948 with spina bifida, a birth defect that left him unable to use his legs.
But his mother, Theresa McLaughlin — a single mom who worked at a local paper mill– knew that “from the neck up, he’s just fine.” So she treated Dennis just like any other kid.
At a StoryCorps mobile booth, Dennis payed tribute to the way Theresa raised him.
Click here for the transcript.
Dennis McLaughlin (DM): I remember I spent a lot of time in the hospital, in Springfield, Massachusetts. And a few years ago it suddenly dawned on me what an incredibly long trip that was. What did you have to do to come and see me?
TM: Well, we lived so far away that I couldn't go more than once or twice a month. And I didn't have a car, so I had to take the bus. I worked six to midnight, so that I could be with you all day long. And it was very difficult leaving you because the minute you'd see me putting on my coat, you'd start to cry. And then I'd hear you crying all the way down the hall. But, I mean, every minute that I spent with you was well worth it.
DM: When I was 14, my legs were amputated. What was that like?
TM: It was like a shock, but one doctor told me, "Dennis will roll with the best of them." [Laughs] And you always have. I remember one instance when you and the neighborhood kids were talking about, "What you going to be when you get big?" When it got to you, you said, "I'm going in the Army." And one of your friends said, "You dummy, you can't go in the Army; you can't march." You said, "No, but I can ride in a jeep." So, you always looked at the good side of things.
DM: I'm that way because of the attitude that you had. You know, I think it's just kind of the luck of the draw what family you're born into. And some people aren't so lucky, and some people are very very fortunate, and I'm one of them.
TM: You've been a wonderful son, and, uh, I couldn't ask for any better.