Sunday, January 17, 2021

Neighbours

 I am home.

I am not yet whole.

I need a little extra help to get me through the day. Maybe 5 or 10 minutes in the morning will do it. My first thought was to get in an occupational therapist to see if an adaption can be made such that I need no extra help. She came up with a few ideas but none were immediately applicable. During her visit, she took in everything and kept circling back to the extra hands that Joe needed for that brief few minutes in the morning. We spoke about a personal support worker but that sounded too intrusive to me and way more formal an arrangement than I'd like.

So I let her wander around with Joe in tow while I went on the computer and contacted my neighbours across the wall. I told them the situation that I was in, I told them what I needed and asked if they could help for a couple of weeks. In a few minutes, it was all arranged and I knew it would be okay.

I told her about the arrangement and her first response was 'are they nice' as if their agreement to help wasn't evidence enough. Then she yattered on about how she could never do that, she's too independent, that asking people in your life for help was almost unnatural. 

But even so, by the time she'd left I had a plan in place and people to rely on.

And I wonder how many needs could be handled this way, neighbours being neighbours, people helping people. It wasn't even part of her evaluation, it was the question not asked.

But for me, I have great neighbours and right now, that's all I need to get back on my feet again. Tomorrow will take care of itself. 


Friday, January 15, 2021

Hospital

 It's in the early afternoon and I am sitting at home writing a blog. The only thing that makes this noteworthy is that I was just discharged yesterday from a week's stay at the hospital. Joe came home to find me on the edge of the bed trying to put my pants on, but I couldn't do this simple task. I had already left home. I didn't recognize him or the ambulance guys or the hospital team. I was horribly confused and kept pulling the IV lines out of my arms and I lay covered in blood.

I knew that I wouldn't be alone, that Joe would be with me, so I began to call for him. In my mind, he was just out of sight and I needed to coach him back. For hours I called out 'Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe' and then I'd do it again. It alarmed me that they didn't know who Joe was and I begged them to listen to me. I WAS NOT ALONE. There was someone who loved me.

About 4 hours in someone stuck their head in my room and said, "He's not here, we are under lockdown. You are laying in a hospital room by yourself." This news settled me. Joe would be there he just couldn't be there right now. 

It took a couple of days but my knowledge of where I am in time and where I was presently located came back. The days became blurs as they sped by with the speed of inertia, nothing would happen, and then when something did, it really did.

I didn't see Joe, physically, until I was dropped off by transit back at home. The funny thing about being dazed and confused, you begin to feel a loss of trust in your senses. But, I need not have worried. There are not many things I am sure of in this world, but I am sure of this. I love Joe. He loves me right back.

Saturday, January 02, 2021

Moments: One of four

 He was running, keeping up with his mother who was animatedly talking on the phone. Then, suddenly he dropped. I turned from where I was seated waiting for Joe, I thought he'd fallen but he hadn't. He just stopped midstride and dropped to tie his shoe. He must have noticed the laces flapping and decided spur of the moment, to fix the situation. His mother, not noticing, kept walking. After a couple of steps, she noticed he wasn't beside her anymore she turned and saw him studiously tying his shoe.

After a couple of attempts, he started softly crying. He reached for his mother when she arrived and her phone was plopped into her purse and she accepted the hug. "What's wrong," she asked. He launched into a stream of frustration and self-abasement. He was stupid, he was dumb, he was never going to get it. His fingers all the while worked at the laced as if they independently were wishing the laces into a knot.

"Take a breath," she said.

"I'm going to make you late, Mom," he said.

"Take a breath," she said. "You aren't dumb, you are rushing. We have time. You have time," with that she took his hands and stopped the fingers. After a couple of seconds, she said, "Take another breath. Try now."

He focused on the laces and his fingers, under his command, did what they were supposed to do. The knot was tied.

"See," she said. He went to hug her and she stopped him. "You need to promise me that you will stop hurting yourself, calling yourself names, it's not okay. Now promise me." He did. Then she hugged him and they were on their way.

I have been sitting here struggling with what to do next. I want to leave it there, I want this to be simply an example of wonderful parenting. But, the devil is in the details, and sometimes meaning is too. Does it matter to the story that the son fighting to tie his shoes was in his thirties and his mother was at least 20 years older than him? Does it matter that this was a man with an intellectual disability?

I think, maybe it does.

I think that makes what she did more remarkable.

She didn't tie his shoe for him and rush off.

She hadn't given up.

She taught him how to create space for himself to succeed because she believed that success was possible. She taught him to be kinder to himself in a world wherein he may find little in the way of compassion.

We, all of us, need help with both those things. Making space. Inner kindness.

We, all of us, will be learning these things throughout our whole lives.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

good will

I am not a biblical scholar and would never pretend to know the Bible beyond a few verses that I particularly like and, of course, beyond my meager understanding of the message. But I am going to dare to quote something here, and change a word to fit our times.

"Peace on earth to those of good will."

Now, this is translated in differing ways but this is the translation I'm going with today. I first noticed the distinction between this and "Peace on earth and goodwill to all" years ago when I foolishly agreed to read a passage at a service. The very specific nature of the actual wording 'to those of good will' struck me. This isn't a platitude, it's a challenge.

In order to have peace on earth, it must be made, created, struggled for. It is something that happens when we DO something, FEEL something, ACT on something, it's what comes when we develop good will to others, to our world, and to our mutual goals. 

It isn't a gift or a given. 

Something is required of us.   

And you see it don't you. When people wear masks, their eyes show their intent on keeping people, their neighbours, and their community safe. Contrast this with those who are fighting and spitting and swearing and disrupting and ignoring the reasonable request to wear one. These are not those of good will, and that is not peace.

And you see it don't you. When people stay at home, just with those with whom they share a household. When people zoom call to connect without contagion. When  people actively work to flatten the curve. Contrast with those who party in large number and then justify, justify, justify, by talking about my rights and my home and no goverment will tell me ... ignoring that the government didn't tell them, science did.

And you will see it tonight. There will be those who hunker in and hunker down and pop champagne in a room that will not roar a cheer in response. There will be those of good will, taking care of business quietly. But then again they are contrasted by the strident, angry, statements about covid only killing the weak, not the strong, so who cares. Well, maybe the weak.

So happy new year to those of good will, if there are enough of us, maybe it will be happy. But I fear those who aren't of good will, not even that, those who are actively of ill will. 

I type this alone in my room.

I type this joining in with the good will of others. 

Simply because I wish for peace.

Friday, December 25, 2020

The Gift

 Before I even open a package.

I am reminded.

Of the gift of difference.

I did not always see it as the blessing it was. I blamed the hurt I felt from being so visible on my differences, not other people's prejudices. I was able to see, close up, how people who thought themselves kind could act in ways that were cruel. Seeing that could lead to bitterness. But it didn't. Because my differences became something that allowed me to see those others who didn't believe that difference should mean deferance. Those people who had whose open hearts lead to an open mind. 

My parents held a Christmas party once that I remember. They moved the furniture so that there could be dancing. They arranged for food to seem endless and booze to be abundant. I was maybe 12 years old, I didn't understand why they were having the party, I dreaded it. My house was the only place that I could be sure that I would not be bullied or teased or mocked, now people would be trotting in. My social sanctuary invaded.

The guests arrived. I didn't know most of them. I may have known their children but I didn't know the parents. About a half-hour in a coarse remark was made about my weight and apparently, it was hilarious. Soon after I retreated to my room, which was just off the front room where the party was happening. About a half-hour later came a small knock at my door, I reluctantly got up and answered. A really pretty young woman in a lovely dress stood there.

I looked at her with a question on my face and she said, "Your father tells me you want to be a veterinarian," she said and I nodded. "He tells me you have quite a collection of dog figurines," she continued. Again I nodded. "May I see them?" she asked.

I opened the door and she came in. The door stayed open and the sounds of the party were loud and the scene raucous with dancing and partying. She sat on the bed and I gave her a tour of the hundred or so dog figurines that I had. She talked about them at first and then slowly switched over to chat with me about other things. About every 15 minutes she was asked back to the party by the man who'd made the remark. She just said, "No, I'm good here."

She stayed with me showing interest in me for well over an hour. She left, closing the door behind her saying, "Don't let what people say make you feel like you can't achieve something in your life. Don't give them that."

 I had been repaired.

I am reminded.

Of the gift of difference.


Monday, December 21, 2020

Ymir Hill

Photo Credit (used with permission): YmirPhoto Dotca
Photo Description: A photo of the road into Ymir and the sun over Ymir Hill

It was my birthday. I had just turned 7 or 8 years old. As my birthday fell so close to Christmas, I'd never had any luck with birthday parties, kids just didn't come. I told myself that it was because so many other Christmas activities pulled them away, but I knew in my heart that this wasn't true. I wasn't a popular kid. My weight and my discomfort around others led me to be at the butt of the jokes and the subject of bullies. So this Christmas we had decided to go sledding down Ymir hill. Ymir was a short drive away so we piled in my brother, my mother and I and headed for the hill.

We got there and there were only a few kids around, most of them playing up by the water tower. I've always been a screamer, shut up, so let out a happy scream on my first run down the hill. I got to the bottom, fell off the sled and laughed. My brother was next, braver than me, he just laughed all the way down, as we trudged up the hill ready to make our way down again. The kids at the tower had disappeared. On the next run down, they were back, sleds and toboggans being dragged behind them. Now there was a bunch of us, I was please to not be the only screamer, going down the hill.

It got out that it was my birthday that day. The kids all wished me a good day and we continued trudging up and racing down the hill. It was a really fun day, a really fun party. It wasn't one that was planned and it wasn't one with people I knew. Just a welcoming bunch of kids, willing to join in a celebration that they were unaware of. 

I often think of that birthday as one of the happiest memories from my childhood. It is one where I learned something that would serve me well one day. Community happens. Inclusion happens. Welcome happens. It isn't created or manufactured or planned. It just happens. There is a magic to it. It is made when a drop of welcome is added to a drop of opportunity are added to a cup full of shared interest. 

This party had nothing to do with the disability that I would one day have.

This party had nothing to do with the sexuality that I would one day proclaim.

This party had nothing to do with the difference I felt.

These kids didn't come as an act of charity.

They came to get and in the getting give.

That night when we got home and were ready to cut the cake, I felt less alone in the world. I got a sense of the world that I would one day live in.

That's all I needed to survive.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

No One Cancels Christmas

 I met him about two weeks before Christmas and after about 5 minutes I was sure I was speaking to a very large version of one of Santa's elves. His joy was exuberant, as all joy should be. It lit up the house. To say it was infectious would be a stretch because the staff had seemed to have caught only a very mild version of it. I went home that day with a bit of a grin on my face. I love Christmas, the presents, the tree, all of it. 

But I'd just met someone to whom Christmas meant the world. And I could understand why. He had told me about spending the Christmas holiday with a couple he had met from his church, he'd known them for years. Every year, he told me, he would go to their home and celebrate with their family. He knew the names of all their children, he knew what they all liked and were hoping for under the tree. The level of detail drew me in, I felt like I knew them after he'd told me about them. "I love them," he said simply.

The next visit was a bit different. He was near vibrating with excitement. But I was there as an answer to a call from the supervisor of the home. I sat down with her and her eyes were brimming, I thought she was going to cry right then and there. "What's wrong?" I asked. She told me that he had been invited to their home for Christmas every year since he'd known them and when it came time for them to pick him up, he'd be packed, but they never came. He'd never even been to their home. And yes, every year he was crestfallen. Every year he seemed to hurt a little more.

They'd see him the first Sunday after Christmas at church, they'd greet him with love and affection, but without apology or explanation. He never knew why they promised and he never knew why they never came. The staff had been told that they couldn't bring it up because he 'was lucky to have someone in his life' and there was a worry that their interference in any way would drive them away.

"What happened on Christmas Day," I asked, wonder how he handled being at home, being without family, without his church friends. "He is so resilient, he always looks forward to the day and we do what we can to make it special but his two housemates go home to their families, so it's just him and the staff."

"He still celebrates?" I asked.

"Oh, yes he does," she said, "he's a strong guy."

Christmas comes.

It always does.