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Heart, determination, and triumph
This is the story of a boy who fell in love with wrestling before he was able to walk. Born with achondroplasia, a condition that causes disproportionate dwarfism, Dylan Postl had endured multiple surgeries by the age of 12. And yet, he held on to the dream that he would one day become a professional wrestler. Ignoring the naysayers and against doctors’ recommendations, Postl began training in his teens, and he soon began appearing on local independent shows. Before he turned 20, he was signed by WWE to play the role of Irish grappler Finlay’s feisty sidekick, Hornswoggle, and remained a fixture in the company for a full decade.
While most of Postl’s adult life has been spent in the wild world of the wrestling industry, his is more than a story of a little person’s journey through a world of giants; it’s a memoir of elation and anguish, triumph and disappointment, and of how an endlessly positive outlook combined with the unwavering support of family and friends helped a long shot become a success in his industry and a loving, responsible father.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The Coffee Table
I'm fine with the word midget. A lot of little people consider that term insulting, and some get really worked up when they hear it. Others steer clear of it for fear of causing offense, like the time wrestling commentator Michael Cole accidentally used it and Vince McMahon went off on him, yelling, "You can never say that — ever! It's so demeaning."
When there's a need to make reference to my diminutive stature, most regular-sized people get stuck. As the moment approaches, they'll start to look like a deer in the headlights. Some people will say midget and then backtrack, tie themselves up in knots, and stumble over their words. Others will use "people like you," which I don't mind. I far prefer that to option three, where they'll pause, look awkward, and eventually go with "I don't really know how to say it ..." The level of panic it can create can be quite hilarious. Usually though, I won't let it get that far — I'll jump in and say, "Midget is fine" and they'll breathe a sigh of relief.
Honestly, I've never once had a problem with the word. I always say the word midget makes me money. You used to see "midget wrestling" all the time on posters for shows, and it would help draw a crowd. I never feel like I'm being ridiculed or marginalized by the word and, as you'll see in this book, I use it liberally myself. It's just a word and it can only be offensive if the person using it means it as an insult — and even then, it's not the word that offends, it's the attitude.
Some people only see a little person when they look at me. Others see me for who I am. Being small is part of who I am, but only part. I don't consider it my defining characteristic and never have. I can't change it, so it's not worth getting upset about.
My parents learned I was going to be undersized midway through the pregnancy. The news came as a shock — there was no history of dwarfism on either side of the family. My mom already had two children from a previous marriage and they were both normal-sized. Dad was thirty-four and Mom was twenty-six — neither could be considered an older parent with a higher risk of having a baby with complications. The delivery itself was as straightforward as childbirth ever is and, in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, on May 29, 1986, I was born Dylan Mark Postl, with my middle name being chosen for my dad's brother, who had died of cardiomyopathy when he was eighteen.
There are different kinds of dwarfism. I have achondroplasia, which is the most common and presents the fewest health issues. I have a normal-sized torso with an oversized skull and short, bowed arms and legs. My condition is far more noticeable when I'm standing up but, when I'm sitting, I'm about the same height as a normal person. Because of the size of my head and arms, you'd still notice I was different but it's not as obvious when I'm off my feet.
In the first few years of my life, there was no difference between me and other kids in terms of many developmental milestones, such as starting to speak, but it did take me longer to learn how to walk because I was top heavy and born with scoliosis — a curvature of the spine, which is common in little people. When I was six, I underwent corrective surgery for that. What was supposed to be a relatively straightforward procedure didn't go to plan because the surgeon had never operated on a little person before. He had assumed my insides would be the same as a normal-sized person but, once he'd opened me up, he found everything was "completely different in there." He attempted to put a rod in my back to straighten my spine but it didn't work and, worse still, pinched a nerve, which paralyzed me from the waist down. Fortunately, shortly after the surgery I regained full use of my lower half, but that had to have been terrifying for my parents. I still have some complications from this though. My feet always feel like they are different temperatures; my right foot is always much colder than my left. There will also be three or four times each year when I'll have a day or two where it'll feel like I'm constantly being electrocuted in my feet. It's not much fun but things could have been a lot worse.
Although I was only partially paralyzed for a short time, I was still bedridden for a couple of months, confined to a full-body cast that went from under my armpits to just above my groin. Even when I was released from the hospital, the cast came with me and I had to wear it until it was time for the surgeons to try again.
I don't remember much about my first surgery, but I do have several memories of the second. You may think that going into a major surgery at the age of seven would be terrifying but my parents told me everything would be fine. That was all I needed to hear and, at that age, I didn't think too hard about potential complications. I just knew that it was something that needed to happen to fix my back.
The second surgery went much more smoothly. The new surgeon removed one of my ribs and fused it into my back along with a metal rod. When I came around afterward, I found I was sporting the familiar full-body cast. I was laid up in hospital again, unable to go home, so my parents came in to visit as much as they could, and my dad's parents, Grandpa and Grandma Postl, were regular visitors who went out of their way to make sure I knew how much they cared. The other side of the family was a different story. My mom's parents never once visited me any of the times I was in the hospital. It felt like they were embarrassed.
I needed as much support as I could get since I couldn't do anything for myself — I wasn't even able to get to the bathroom, which meant bedpans and bottles. And whenever I couldn't manage to pee, which was often, I had to get catheters. I remember that they were bright red and hurt like hell. The moment I'd see one being brought toward me, I'd start crying. My family was always there to hold my hand, but I would bawl my eyes out. Dad was always so sad for me because I had to have catheters so frequently, sometimes a couple of times in a single day. Even the nurses hated doing it because they felt so bad for me. On top of the daily catheterization, I had to have regular blood tests, too. I guess that's where my fear of needles comes from.
The nurses were great though — they did everything they could to make the best of a bad situation and always made sure I had my stuffed animal and my blanket. I actually had two blankets and they used to put one in the freezer. Whenever the one I had got too warm and uncomfortable, they'd switch it with the one in the freezer. To this day, I can't sleep when I get too warm. Toward the end of my stay in hospital, we had water fights, which aren't as fun when you can't really move but better than doing nothing. The nurses would spray me with huge syringes filled with water, and I'd splash them right back with my water bottle.
There was only so much the nurses could do to keep me occupied so, to help with the boredom, Dad brought in a Nintendo Entertainment System and we played a ton of RBI Baseball. I'd spend all day looking forward to seeing Dad in the evening and playing that NES into the night. Those visits were everything to me. RBI Baseball was the only thing we'd play. It carried on being our thing after I got back home and remained something we'd do together for many years. No matter what other video game systems I would get through the years, we'd always keep the NES and RBI Baseball. Some of my favorite childhood memories come from that, especially how fired up Dad would get whenever I'd bunt and get an easy base.
Even after I'd been discharged, the full-body cast had to stay on. Being trapped in that cast twenty-four hours a day was uncomfortable at best and, over summer, I would become so overheated that I'd itch all over and have to use a fork to try to scratch myself. Whenever I managed to get that fork to an itch, it was a great feeling — but better still was the brief period every few months when I would get cut out of the cast. As much as I looked forward to the outcome, the process of getting the cast off was terrifying: The doctor had to use an electric saw to cut into the plaster. In reality, the saw wasn't very big but, in my young mind, this grown man was using a chainsaw on me. I was always scared he was going to saw into my chest. There was a horrendous noise as the blade cut, plaster went everywhere, and I'd cry my eyes out. It was worth it though — when they pulled the cast apart and I could feel air on my chest, it was the best feeling in the world. They'd put me in a fresh cast shortly thereafter, but I always looked forward to those few minutes of freedom every few months.
One of the main problems with being in the cast was that I found it impossible to stand upright, so if I wanted to get anywhere at home, I'd have to roll from room to room. Everyone laughed at first but, after a while, the novelty wore off and it just became an everyday part of life. I'd learned to walk before my first surgery but a couple of years in the body cast had set me back a lot. My physical therapy sessions didn't seem to be helping at all and I started to wonder if I'd ever be able to walk again.
One day, at home, I decided I'd had enough of rolling or being carried everywhere. While my parents were in their bedroom, I pulled myself up against the wall in the hallway and started taking little kicking steps, with my arms out in front of me for balance. I must have looked like Tommy from Rugrats. My mom came out of the bedroom, saw me, and gasped, "Oh my God!" All I could say was "Hi Mom." She was already crying as she shouted for my dad to come out and see. They tried to get me to walk to them but I told them to grab me and hold my hands because I didn't know if I'd hurt myself if I fell. Gradually though, I got the hang of walking. Just being able to get from room to room standing upright felt like a miracle.
Another weight was lifted when I was permanently freed from the cast, even though I was moved straight into a back brace that I had to wear ninety percent of the time. It was made of hard plastic, with Velcro and straps for fastening. It was a challenge to get on and off because it was so tight and if you bent the plastic too much, it would break. Dad would always be the one to help me with it and, a few times, the brace would slip out of his grasp, pinch my skin, and hurt like hell, causing yet more tears. He felt so bad whenever that happened. That plastic brace presented problems for other people, too. Whenever I'd spend time at Grandpa and Grandma Postl's house, which I loved doing, I would lean on the coffee table in their living room and the bottom of the brace would get caught and scratch it up. My grandparents didn't care about the scuffing, but once I was out of the brace, Dad made sure to have the table refinished so that it was presentable again.
Those weren't the only surgeries I had to endure as a child — I found out that I had a tumor on my eardrum when I was eleven. It was affecting my hearing, so it had to be removed. Just like with my first back surgery, the doctor wasn't prepared for the job. Shortly after he'd put me under and opened me up, he hit an artery. Once that was under control, the doctor decided he wasn't the right man for the job, closed me back up, and called someone else. Three months later, just after I turned twelve, another surgeon removed the tumor successfully, though the surgery left a scab on my eardrum that is still there today. It affects my hearing in that ear and gets infected at least once every six months.
I was always confused as to why the doctors weren't more prepared for what they found. Maybe everything looked normal enough on the scans and X-rays, but it seemed to me that the people who were performing my first back and ear surgeries cut me open and then said, "Hold on, why is this here?" I've joked a few times to Dad that if that sort of thing happened now, the malpractice lawsuits would have made us millionaires. Dad just says that everyone was doing the best they could and all anyone wanted was for me to get better.
Looking back, I went through physical hell in my preteen years — I don't know many people who have a single major surgery before they become a teenager, let alone four. On top of that, you've got all the associated complications that come with my stature but, honestly, I didn't feel that different from any other kid. My teachers treated me the same as everyone else, and that was the way I wanted it. My dad echoed that behavior — but Mom had her own ways of dealing with my condition.CHAPTER 2
The Rubber Ducky
I didn't grow up as the only little person in town. When I was a kid, my mom took me to meet the other person in Oshkosh who was affected by dwarfism. He was an older guy, nice enough if slightly weird. But the main memory I have of that day isn't of the little person — it's of how confused I was. Why was my mom making me meet this little old guy? Was she trying to tell me, "Dylan, this is your future"? Was she trying to show me how different I was from all the normal-sized people? I didn't get it. As far as I was concerned, I was just a kid. It didn't feel like Mom saw me the same way.
I first realized my Mom's need for the spotlight when I returned to school after my second back surgery. I didn't want to make a big deal of it, but Mom made it into "Dylan's Comeback to Elementary School," like it was some sort of major event. She had me do an announcement over the school's public-address system to say I was back and then paraded me in my wheelchair from classroom to classroom, getting everyone to clap as I handed out a piece of gum to each kid. I just wanted to be like any other kid, but Mom went out of her way to see that things changed for me. Before long, the school had a shorter toilet, shorter drinking fountain, and a shorter swing — just for me. Every classroom I was in had a shorter desk, a chair with a foam backrest and footrest. Even at the age of six, I remember thinking, "Why are they doing all this?"
You might think these were the actions of a protective mother, who was making sure her kid was looked after. There might have been an element of that, but in time I came to realize — whether she knew it or not — that it was mostly about getting attention for herself. Being the "mother of the little kid" gave her an identity. She didn't care how, she just cared that everyone knew her. It felt like she would use me to get sympathy for what she must have been going through as the mom of the midget. The reality is, however, I never viewed myself as different from any of the other kids.
Although I was my dad's first child, I was Mom's third. She already had two kids, Tera and Clint, from a previous marriage. She and their biological dad had divorced not long after Clint was born, and my dad had come into the picture shortly thereafter and raised both kids as his own. By the time I was born, Clint was seven and Tera was nine. I never looked on them as anything other than my full brother and sister, and they felt the same about me. By then, Mom was their only living biological parent — her ex-husband had died by suicide when Clint was just three.
I shared a bedroom with Clint and, while there was the big age gap, we were very close. Whenever Mom wasn't around, he'd cook meals for me and make sure I got to and from school. Clint was the one who first introduced me to wrestling by giving me some of his WWF action figures. He drew the line at letting me use his toy wrestling ring though, so my dad built me a wooden replica to stop me complaining.
As well as being the person behind my lifelong love of wrestling, Clint was also responsible for my lifelong fear of the dark. We slept in bunk beds: he had the top bunk and I had the bottom one. Whenever cars would go past our house, their headlights illuminated the ceiling of our second-floor bedroom. Clint told me they were ghosts, and I was young enough to believe him. He didn't help matters by swinging his head down over the edge of the top bunk and scaring the shit out of me when I was trying to go to sleep. He was also a sleepwalker, so I'd never know if he'd be in his bed or not and that scared me, too. My parents sometimes found him standing around in the kitchen or the laundry room. On one occasion, when I was half-asleep, he fell clean out of the bed. I saw a body drop and land with a huge thud on the floor right next to me. It was a hell of a bump but, somehow, he wasn't hurt at all. I was scared to death though — I pulled the covers over my head, closed my eyes tight, and tried to go back to sleep.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Life Is Short and So Am I"
Copyright © 2019 Dylan Postl.
Excerpted by permission of ECW PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
- Foreword by Kofi Kingston
- Foreword by Curt Hawkins
- Chapter 1
- Chapter 2
- A Short Story: Hasbro
- Chapter 3
- Chapter 4
- Chapter 5
- Chapter 6
- Chapter 7
- A Short Story: Booker T Needs His Red Bull
- Chapter 8
- A Short Story: The Backpack
- A Short Story: The Nature Boy and the Wildman
- A Short Story: Finlay’s Sense of Humor
- Chapter 9
- Chapter 10
- Chapter 11
- A Short Story: 3:16
- Chapter 12
- A Short Story: Keeping a Secret Secret
- A Short Story: Overserved
- Chapter 13
- A Short Story: The Highest Heights
- A Short Story: A Short Date
- A Short Story: Rough Ryder
- Chapter 14
- Chapter 15
- A Short Story: MSG Sucks
- A Short Story: Gold Heat
- Chapter 16
- Chapter 17
- A Short Story: Trolling Myself
- A Short Story: The Boss and the Best
- Chapter 18
- A Short Story: Dressing for Dinner
- Chapter 19
- A Short Story: The Summer of Punk
- A Short Story: The Top Man
- Chapter 20
- A Short Story: “Stupid . . . Stupid . . . Stupid”
- Chapter 21
- A Short Story: Shirtless and Terrified
- Chapter 22
- A Short Story: Miz-mode
- Chapter 23
- Chapter 24
- A Short Story: Bottom of the Barrel
- A Short Story: A Not-So-Super Kick
- A Short Story: Drinking Shorts
- Chapter 25
- Chapter 26
- A Short Story: Falling Down
- A Short Story: The Winner
- Chapter 27
- A Short Story: Zack Doesn’t Party
- Chapter 28
- Chapter 29
- About the Authors