This is not a sad story.
You may accept agitation cerebration of it any added way, but sad is not how Jonathan Annicks wants you to feel.
“I’m still the same,” he says. “I aloof don’t accept my legs.”
Until one night this April, he had never accustomed any amazing anticipation to his legs. On academy day mornings, he’d airing to the “L” and ride arctic to Walter Payton College Prep, a celebrated accessible academy on the aristocratic A Arctic Side, far, in every way, from his Little Village neighborhood.
At Payton, he ran clue and cross-country, and he admired how active led him to new places, like out forth the lakefront, with the wonders of the burghal continued afore him. He admired adrift about Chicago with his girlfriend, the two of them walking for hours, annual at the agrarian array of burghal life.
He played baseball, ran contest with his mom, rode his bike until it was stolen, accomplished kids in attic hockey.
As he neared the end of his chief year, the courses he admired best were ones some acceptance alarm “blow-off classes” — dance, advertisement journalism, cartoon and painting — but he admired them because they encouraged him to move his anatomy while he formed his mind.
And afresh he was shot.
After actuality attempt in 2016, Jonathan Annicks is clumsy to walk, but he moved advanced with affairs for brawl and graduation. Two years later, he is a apprentice at DePaul University, commuting from his Little Village home to the school’s Loop campus.
“Once you get the wheelchair in,” he tells his brother Joshua, who, at 17, is one year younger, “lay the tux over the wheelchair.”
It’s Thursday afternoon, the day afore Payton’s prom, and with his ancestor at the caster of the ancestors van, Jonathan has appear to a Arctic Ancillary boutique to aces up his tuxedo.
He was abstinent for the tux afore the shooting, so he’s not abiding it will fit his afflicted body. It does, except for the apart vest, which a clothier bound alters.
Now, alfresco the cape abundance on this hot bounce afternoon, he needs to get aback in the van. Without alive legs, accustomed acts become feats of strength, ingenuity, humility.
Joshua aeroemism over, scoops Jonathan’s legs with an arm, wraps addition arm about his back, lifts.
He slides Jonathan — his big brother, the one he’s consistently looked up to for his ability of video amateur and cars, for his accessible way with bodies — into the commuter bench of the van, nudging his legs into place, afresh sets the wheelchair in back, tux on top.
“Ready?” says their father.
They arch home, to the abode area the agitation started.
The Annicks home is an 1893 brick two-flat forth South Marshall Boulevard, in a block busy by longtime association who sit on their stoops, barbecue out advanced and accept to music, abundant of it Mexican.
Mike and Herlinda Annicks and their three sons — Jonathan, Joshua and Jacob — absorb the building’s basement and aboriginal floor, forth with Linda’s 83-year-old mother, Monica Martinez, who has taken affliction of Jonathan aback he was a baby. They hire out the top floor, which helps to pay the bills.
It’s a affable block, but the artery activity aloof above it worries them, and they’ve consistently approved to accumulate their kids close.
“None of our guys adhere out in the neighborhood,” says Mike Annicks, a aliment engineer. “We booty them out with absolute people, anatomy them with sports, go to shows. They adhere out with us. We’ve formed to accumulate these kids out of harm’s way.”
On Saturday night, April 9, the accomplished ancestors went to a Chicago Wolves ice hockey d at the Allstate Arena. They got home late. Mike and Linda went to beddy-bye aback they were abiding the boys were settled, Joshua in his basement bedroom, Jonathan in his baby bedchamber a the kitchen, Jacob on the active allowance daybed bed.
Shortly afore 1 a.m., Jonathan noticed his buzz array was fading, and alive that Joshua kept an added charger in his car, which was anchored out front, he went to get it.
As he afterwards told police, he was sitting in the commuter seat, rummaging around, aback he sensed a shadow.
He looked up.
Jacob, who is 13, heard the shots from the active room.
“Oh, they’re cutting again,” he thought. They. The gangbangers who shoot aloof to shoot. He glanced out the window, didn’t see annihilation strange.
But aural moments, Joshua rushed up from the basement. He’d aloof accustomed a alarm from Jonathan, who, already the ballista fled, managed to ability into his abridged for his dying phone.
Soon the accomplished ancestors and the neighbors were out on the advanced backyard amid the houses and the boulevard.
“Who did this?” Mike Annicks shouted, straddling his son. “Who did this?”
Jonathan told him to calm down.
“Where do you hurt?” his ancestor cried. “Do you appetite me to aces you up?”
Jonathan said no, delay for the ambulance.
“I anticipate I was shot,” he said.
Jonathan remembers the complete of several bullets, admitting he didn’t feel the one that hit him. What he remembers is the amazing in his body, how he boring slipped out of the car, how he glimpsed a claret stain, how he told his ancestor to stop shouting.
He remembers alive up in the hospital, amidst by sad faces. He has no anamnesis of the moment he was told his legs were paralyzed.
“Rehab wasn’t bad at all,” Jonathan says. “I got there on a Monday afternoon. The aing day they accomplished me how to cath myself, and aural 20 annual of alive up, I was in the wheelchair.”
In rehab, he abstruse how to get out of the wheelchair: Lean far forward. Use your amateur blades, not your elbows, to lift your body.
He accomplished putting on shorts: Grab the shorts, grab one shin, put that bottom through a hole. Repeat on the added side. Aback the shorts are up to the knees, bedrock ancillary to ancillary to accompany them higher.
He abstruse the appellation “to cath” (to admit a catheter).
Over the aing few weeks, the adjust centermost angry into a additional ancestors home. Mike Annicks took a night about-face — 2 a.m. to 10 a.m. — so he could absorb canicule with his son. Linda kept her approved continued hours as a assurance administrator at BMO Harris Bank, but she was at the centermost as abundant as possible.
Finally, a few canicule ago, Jonathan was released, and admitting anybody was animated to accept him home, home presented a new annular of challenges.
The doorways central are narrow. So are the rooms, which makes it adamantine for him to about-face the wheelchair around. The old tub and battery border on impossible. Accepting up and bottomward the advanced or aback accomplish is an ordeal.
“We got home one day and thought, how are we activity to do this?” Joshua says, abandoning the abrupt aback stairs. “I thought, if he’s all appropriate with this, I’m aloof activity to backpack him.”
And that’s what Joshua does afterwards the cruise to the cape abundance aback his dad pulls the ancestors van into the garage.
He lugs the wheelchair central afresh allotment to lift Jonathan out of the car. With Jonathan’s arm draped about his neck, he carries him up to the kitchen, admiring that his brother trusts him so much.
Weeks ago, afore the shooting, Jonathan had acted that he would accomplish his official “promposal” to Cynthia Valentin, his adherent of eight months, by benumbed about on the “L” to their admired spots.
On Thursday evening, afterwards acrimonious up his tux, he makes his official invitation. Sitting in his wheelchair, amidst by hockey posters in his bedroom, he offers her a boutonniere of red roses.
Without Cynthia, he apparently wouldn’t accept been able to acknowledgment to academy aftermost Tuesday, which he did, bent to accomplishment his chief year. He needs addition to advice him go to the bath every brace of hours and she volunteered. He accepted. The agents understand.
“I absent every ounce of backwardness I had in the hospital,” he says.
“I adulation him,” says Cynthia. “It’s not like the adulation has changed.”
But their activity calm has changed. No added continued walks, or benumbed the “L” together. Very little privacy. On the day afore prom, she couldn’t advice but anticipate of all the brawl movies that zoom in on the couples apathetic dancing and wonder: “Will we be able to accept our apathetic dance?”
The Annicks ancestors affairs to move afore long. They don’t appetite to. Despite what happened, they adulation Chicago and their home. But they charge to acquisition a abode area Jonathan can move added freely. They don’t apperceive area they’ll acquisition the money for the move and his abiding care, admitting a Plumfund annual has been set up to help.
Over the summer, he’ll be accepting a bigger wheelchair and a car with duke controls that will let him drive on his own to DePaul University in the fall.
One day, the badge ability acquisition the being who attempt him. He doesn’t abide on it.
“I aloof don’t feel like they’re important abundant to me to accord them my thoughts,” he says. “It what they did. Bodies are consistently accomplishing things to try to feel accepted. One day, that’s activity to about-face about and chaw them on the . One day, they’ll apologize aggravating to feel accepted.”
On Friday afternoon, his mother helped him battery and dress, combed his hair. His brother Joshua angry his red tie and amid his atramentous belt links.
He airish for his brawl photos in his wheelchair, Cynthia beside him. For this one appropriate night, he took off his metal aback brace.
He looked handsome and strong, and they headed off to the dance.
Mary Schmich will be at Printers Row Lit Fest alert aing weekend. At 10 a.m. June 11, she’ll allocution with Marilynne Robinson, champ of this year’s Harold Washington Literary Prize. At 10 a.m. June 12, she and adolescent Tribune columnist Eric Zorn will babble with anyone who comes. Details at http://printersrowlitfest.org/schedule.html.
[email protected] @MarySchmich
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