I never met Norman, but I love the guy.
At my workshop in Bradford yesterday, a woman named Christine (I think I am remembering wrong but have no one to ask, if you were there and her name was not Christine, please correct me in the comments and I'll change it in the text.) put her hand up just before break to say something. I made a mental note to call on her when people came back. I was launching in when I remembered, I stopped myself, and asked her if there was something she wanted to say.
Christine, in context of our discussion about relationships and reciprocity, told us about her husband Norm. I would soon been their 30th anniversary, but Norman died of a siesure when they'd been married nearly 19 years. She spoke of those who said that they wouldn't last, she spoke of their life together as a couple, he was good at pushing her in her wheelchair, she was good with money. Norman had a job where he worked hard outside, when his siezures took him, she would call his workplace to ensure that he got sick pay. She had the gift of gentle assertion.
Over the day, Norman came into the conversation. She told us how when she was in the wheelchair people would speak to Norman and not to her and Norman would say, 'She can talk you know.'
After she'd talk about she would sit back and you simply knew that Norman was holding her, his memory was wrapping around her. She spoke with such love and respect for the man she loved for so many years.
At one point we all gave her a round of applause, why not celebrate 30 years of loving - both don't need to be there for that. When we clapped she gave two huge thumbs up and said, 'That's for you Norman.'
I said it because I had to. I wanted her to know that it was because of women like her, women who came from a time where disability was seen with a backdrop of shame, women who still lived their lives with purpose and passion. Doctors can diagnose, but she had greater power, she defined herself. People with disabilities have freedoms today because women like her lived yesterday. I wanted her to know that. I get teary at these moments and was aware that an audience was watching but I didn't care, I wanted to know that she had led a life that left a mark. I wanted her to know that she had created out of the rack and ruin of low expectations and limited opportuntities a rich life. That's what heros do.
I know why Norman loved her. I know why he still does. Happy 30th the two of you.