Friday, January 12, 2007

Boats

Joe had just parked me at a table and was off getting me a green tea. A young woman immediately stopped by me and asked, "Are you Dave Hingsburger?" I said that I was. She sat down and said, "I don't want to take up a lot of your time." I indicated that as I was on the island ferry, that I had time. She said that she had heard me speak once, but that she was a blog-fan. I was immediately thrilled. I've only been blogging a short time and it was cool to think of having a blog 'fan'.

She said that she had read my post from yesterday and there was a line in it that she really liked. "The part about the boy looking at the boat - the part that said that what was going on in his head had nothing to do with Down Syndrome, it just had to do with him being a boy looking at a boat." Her excitement was catching. I knew she had a point so I just let her talk.

"That's exactly what I've been trying to tell people. My little guy Walter, my Dad's name she threw in, he's 10 years old. And most of the time he's just 10 years old, he's just a boy, most of the time Down Syndrome has nothing to do with it. Nothing to do with how I parent him or how I love him. But whenever I talk about him to my friends or my family or, God Forbid, the school - that's all he is. All he is to everyone is DOWN SYNDROME. It's like they aren't interested in the part of him that's Walt, they're only interested in the part that's Downs."

"Well ..." I tried but the train had left the station and had not reached it's desitination. Joe had returned with the green tea and she nodded at him politely but kept talking.

"I don't want you to think that I'm in denial. I know that Walter has problems related to Down Syndrome. God, I'm the one who had to toilet train him and teach him to wash and bathe. I know that things don't come easily to him. I see him struggle. BUT THAT'S ONLY A SMALL PART OF THE DAY. It isn't every minute."

"That's why I liked that part where you said, he was just a boy looking at a boat. THAT'S WALTER, I screamed. And then, oh my God, there you are on the boat. It's like I just read that only a few minutes ago and you are here on the boat. So, can I ask you if I can give that to the teacher. I want his teacher to understand that he should just shut up about Walter having Downs and let Walter be Walter. I want the teacher to just take a bit of time to meet the huge part of Walter that doesn't have Downs, that is just being a 10 year old boy. You know what Walter wants to be?" She didn't take a breath to let me guess, but I would have got it right, "A POLICEMAN for God's sake. He wants to be a policeman. Because he's a 10 YEARS OLD BOY. Why can't the teacher, the social worker, God, why can't MY MOTHER, understand that Walter is a 10 year old boy?"

She stood up, I'd said maybe two words to her, "Thank you for writing that about that boy. It made me feel like maybe I wasn't insane. That maybe I was on the right track. God bless you. I know you're busy and I shouldn't bother you like that, but thanks."

And she was off.

I didn't get to answer her. I didn't even get her name. "Yes, you can give anything on my blog to anyone."

We had Chinese food tonight with my sister-in-law and two of her kids. We laughed until our sides hurt. I sat in a wheelchair but I was just Dave. I'm my disability, but I'm also more than my disability. I'm mostly "Just Dave" and I like it when I just plain forget anything but being a 54 year old guy who likes to talk, eat and laugh.

Most of the time I'm a boy looking at a boat.

And so are you.

5 comments:

Belinda said...

What a gift--your words to that woman--and now that woman's words to all of us. Thank you for just listening--and then recording the moment.

None of us want to be defined by a lable of any sort--we just want to be "us." That shouldn't be such a big thing to ask.

Frances said...

Dear Dave-I'm loving this post. By the way, one day we will meet; I have some lovely boats to tell you about.Frances

Janet said...

Dear Dave - Deeeelighted to have discovered you on the web. Doing a bit of a search and here you are...writing beautiful blog. :)

You probably won't remember me, but here goes...

You came and spoke to a room full of social workers and nurses at the Reid McEwan Centre in Scotland in 2006. I was in the front and kept annoying you at break times...you eventually recruited me to push buttons on the VCR machine.

Well...we haven't forgotten you. The impact that you made was quite amazing. Speaking for myself, I was not the same person when I went home after your input. Your stories and lessons I have told several times...you changed the way I think about people with development disabilities - it is changed and enriched.

Thank you....so much.

You have changed my perspective and my practice.

Thank you....again.

Regards and take very good care...

;)

Leann said...

I just ran across your blog.cant remember where cause I bookmarked it so I could come back and check it out.I think it was on some ones talking about for giveness.anyway I injoyed your story about the lady.and it is hard for some people to see past a handy cap to the person.Im handy capped in a way.Im fat.and I get looked at as if I did it by eating.well yes that helped.but so did having two kids and depression and a number of things.using the fat to keep pain away.but people treat fat people like we dont have worth.but the truth is we all do.every one not just skinny beautiful people.I just wanted to say Hi and Ill check out more of your blog later.its late and I need to get some sleep.God bless.

lina said...

thank you for taking the time to share your moments and all their beauty!
We are fortunate to have you and boats in our lives!