Friday, May 28, 2010

Lessons in a Coffee Shop

This is a story of contrasts. A tale of two men, both the same age, both solidly working class dudes, both drinking coffee with a group next to where Joe and I were having tea. The first happened last weekend, we were enjoying a hot tea on a cold day. The weather was gray but the horizon promised a better day coming. We were both in a relaxed mood. We had a long trip ahead of us but were, in the 'now', we were just a couple of carefree guys with a bit of time on our hands.

Next to us was a fellow having what looked like really strong coffee. He was sitting with a friend and they were chatting 'old people style' about health and operations and the death of mutual friends. The guy nearest me was talking about losing his eyesight. His tone grew serious and, after a piece, he confessed to his friend that he's terrified of the onset of disability, that if death came soon - he'd welcome it. His friend was stuck for words but then quietly said, 'I'd feel the same way too.' I thought this very sad as it looked as if these two men had faced down many a danger and overcome many an obstacle in their lifetime. Shouldn't this just be one more?

Then days later ...

We are in Summerside on a rainy afternoon. It didn't take long to make a tour of the mall there but in that time we did some serious damage to the bank account. To end the visit we stopped for a cup of tea and a sandwich at a popular coffee shop. There was a large table of elderly folks on one side of us and a couple of older guys on the other. One of those guys was telling his friend about the fact he was losing his sight. It felt very much like deja vu ... only this time the tone didn't darken.

The man's friend asked what it was like losing his sight. The man, early in entrance to the world of disability, said, 'Well, I thought it would be interesting to feel my wife's breasts, without sight and all ...' The other guy chuckled and said, 'And?' He continued, 'Trouble was I kept feeling all over her chest, apparently they moved when I wasn't looking.' Then they both howled. Hankerchiefs came out and they wiped eyes.

The man's friend said, 'Oh, boy, we're going to get whole new set of jokes from you.'

He said, 'You've always got to laugh.'

Two men. Two lives. Two attitudes.

Life truly, is a matter of perspective.


Stephanie said...

AMEN! People always comment on how we seem cheerful even when getting what for others, would seem bad news about our child. Like his ortho doctor the other day who apologetically announced that our son would have to have surgery on both legs & be in casts from the hips down for most of the summer.
The fact is, our child has been on the brink....We have had to make tough decisions. He is only here by the grace of God and our doctors will be the first to tell you that. We have watched other parents have to say goodbye to their children or those who could care less if their child dies.
We are the lucky ones. Our baby is here. He is happy, not in pain, and has a great quality of life.....for somebody who is missing a full 60% of his brain.
There are those who look at him and feel pity for the things they think he is missing out on...we still do sometimes too. But he has never known any different, and in the end it is us who feels pity for those who look at him and wonder.....They have no idea how lucky we are!!!


Steph and Christopher

Kristin said...

Life truly, is a matter of perspective.
Ain't that the truth. When I worry about covering all our bills with the salary my hubby busts his ass to earn, I remind myself that at least he has a secure job and good benefits.

It would be so easy to let the little hardships get you down but life is too damn good to let yourself be dragged down like that.

Bibliotekaren said...

Just a slightly contrarian thought here. I've often seen folks who share the same disability labels make assumptions about their co-horts and display a slightly smug "look how swell I'm coping" attitude.

In this scenario the assumption was made that the main difference between these two guys was perspective. Quite possibly it is. However, financial resources, family support or lack thereof, the type of endeavors they engage in that give their life meaning (and how the disability would affect that), etc. all play a huge part too.

Yeah, I agree that perspective is generally the biggest factor in regards to coping for most of us. However, we can't minimize the impact of how real world resources affect the perspective. And, that's the part we can't know from an overheard conversation.

I enjoy your blog Dave. Always things to think about.

Baba Yaga said...

It's a sound point. If our collective attitudes to disability were otherwise, disability (particularly the onset of) would be much easier to cope with.

The difficult thing is that perspective itself is partly a matter of resources. And if one has faced down many a danger and overcome many an obstacle - that can be very wearing. Especially if one hasn't so much had the means to overcome as to be worn down a little by each in turn... Enough of that, and the ability to laugh does go.

To be tired, and under-supported, and facing change is frightening.

Vicious and virtuous cycles. It's harder to change the vicious to the virtuous than to maintain the virtuous.

AkMom said...

When my now adult daughter was about 3 years old, we were getting a full prognosis and the pediatrician said she would never be an olympic skater. We laughed and said that wasn't a problem, she'd already decided to be a BigTruck driver!
She hasn't fulfilled that dream, but she is happy with where she is in life.

Dad said...

A good friend of mine went through a Medical Procedure which left him almost Blind.

After a short time I realized that he did not know he was Blind and carried tasks such as Gardening seemingly mostly from memory.

Which made for some very unusual tracks left behind by his Lawn Mower.

Perspective is considerd as a hardest matter of life said...

ASTRA ZENNIE: Perspective is considerd as a hardest matter of life. and this is really a fact. person should be a perspective even in the small aspects of its expenditure....