I've seen her often. She walks with a walker and it looks like each step causes her pain. But she's out there with the basket of her walker full of shopping bags with groceries or stuff from the pharmacy pretty much every afternoon. She has a shiny red walker that she leans on heavily. It seems to be so much a part of her that I can't imagine her without it. I noticed, the first time that I saw it, that the walker had a comfortable looking seat, which I'd never seen her use.
It was a beautiful and crisp fall afternoon. The sky was winter blue and the sun shone high in the sky. Everyone wore sweaters or light jackets and walked with rosy cheeks. Joe and I were chatting easily about just stuff. Thoughts and ideas that crossed our minds were shared effortlessly. It was the kind of day made for a brisk walk. We could just see the top of our apartment building peeking over the tops of the buildings on the other side of the street. I started thinking about hot chocolate. Joe started thinking about an afternoon beer.
Then I saw her.
She was seated on her walker. Her legs were crossed comfortably and she was pulling apart a hot muffin she'd bought from a shop on the street. Steam rose from the muffin and she balanced the muffin on her knee while she pulled apart one of those small tubs of butter. She had a plastic knife in her hand with which she slathered the butter onto the hot muffin. Even from my vantage point coming up the street I could see the butter melt into the hot muffin.
And then ...
She took a delicate bite of the hot muffin. Her whole body reacted to the taste. She leaned against the side of the seat and closed her eyes. It was such a wonderful moment of private sensuousness. It was a moment that gave the lie to the stereotype of life with disability as a life without pleasure, a life without joy. It was a moment that made every step she took from home to shop worthwhile. There was nothing about her, in that moment, that one could pity - indeed it was a moment to envy.
People selectively hear what they want to hear about disability.
People selectively see what they want to see when someone with a disability passes by.
Disability means moving differently, doing differently, managing differently. Yeah, it's all that.
But hot buttered muffins on cool fall days - remember, it's that too.