Oddly, I'm startled every time I see him. And every time I see him I remember that he's there. Has been there for years. But somehow him being in this place in the world amazes me. He works at Sobey's in Angus, a town near where I live. He is the guy who collects the carts from the driveway or carries groceries out. His William's Syndrome is obvious through both his facial features and his ability to chat. CHAT. C ..... H ..... A ..... T.... ! I love being taken by surprise at his being, his presence. It's like he's suddenly ... there. Suddenly where he belonged all along.
Reading 'The Redbreast' by Jo Nesbo, a murder mystery set in Norway, I was caught by the story. It's no wonder that this book was voted by readers as the best ever Norwegian crime novel. It's smack dab spectacular. But then suddenly, on page 200, she appears. Out of no where, for no particular reason. Harry's sister shows up. She's got Down Syndrome. Then, equally suddenly a beautiful piece of writing follows describing her. To understand the quote you need to know that Harry's partner Ellen is a bird enthusiast and the book is full of bird trivia. Here's how Harry described his family:
"Dad needed to get out. The man who had once been so sociable had become a loner since Mum died eight years ago. And though Sis didn't get far under her own steam, you could often forget that she had Down's syndrome.
A bird dived with glee between the containers. The blue tit can reach a speed of twenty-eight kilometres and hour. Ellen had told him that. A mallard can reach sixty-two kilometres an hour. They both managed equally well. No, Sis wasn't a problem; he was more concerned about his father."
True later in the book more archaic words are used for disability, but still the character of Sis is tremendous. But what's cool, is she's just a character in a book. The book isn't about Down Syndrome, isn't about disability in any way. She's just in the book because she's in the book. It's like I was reading along and she was suddenly ... there. Suddenly where she belonged all along.
It was like that when going to see Notes On a Scandal the other day. Watching the film, getting into the story - akin to crawling into a sewer - on screen appears one of the main character's children. He, like Sis, had Down Syndrome. He's just a kid in a movie. His disability is discussed by Dench's character as a means of telegraphing what kind of person she is ... but nothing more. There are beautiful moments in the film, like watching father and son in front of the television just being together, laughing. No political commentary, just a picture of a family - at home. He's just there because families have kids with Down Syndrome. I was watching a movie and he was suddenly ... there. Suddenly where he belonged all along.
Ain't it nice to be pleasantly surprised? To reach into a box of chocolates and get the one with carmel in it? It is for me.
I'm wondering ... if you have ever just been taken by surprise by coming across someone with a disability in a book, or movie, or real life, that you just didn't expect there. Not like "The Memory Keeper's Daughter" where the story was about the disability ... but just out of the blue, for no reason other than to be there, to be present, to represent the diversity of the world.
If so, I'd like to hear about it.