Friday, September 20, 2013

Invisible Joe

I don't think she was very approving. We were at a conference and it was just coming on lunch time. Joe was comfortably seated and busy doing what he does. Because of Joe's osteoarthritis we booked the Vita van to come here so I had my power chair - no pushing for Joe for a while, so I said, "I'll go get your lunch." I headed off. Some sessions hadn't ended yet so it wasn't busy, I picked up a plate filled it with food and the only thing I needed help with, from the hotel employee there to provide assistance and answer questions, was getting the red sauce on to the pasta. She said, "Oh, you are vegetarian," I said, "Yes, but I'm getting this for my partner who is also vegetarian, you'll see me back in a minute." That done, I delivered Joe his plate.

True to my word, I went back again, got different stuff but still all vegetarian. I also needed the veggie red sauce on my pasta. She did the same. I thanked her and headed back to our table. We chatted, Joe and I, with each other and with people who we hadn't seen for awhile, also attending the conference. it was nice. A little later, the hotel staff came by where we were just as Joe was taking the plates over to where others had set dishes they were finished with. She caught sight of Joe walking, and a look crossed her face. She glanced at me as if she was sorry for me for having to help someone who obviously wouldn't help me.

Such is the nature of invisible disabilities. Mine, obvious for all the world to see,  in some situations - like a lunch line up - gets me appropriate offers of help. Joe's disability, though, isn't seen, and he gets a very different reaction. I think she made very different value judgements of him as a person..What kind of person would let a disabled man get lunch for him WHEN HE'S PERFECTLY CAPABLE HIMSELF. I have never understood why those with medical degrees and the ability to diagnose by sight end up in more pedestrian jobs than their skills would indicate.

But for me, I like the fact that, with my power chair, I have been able to relieve Joe almost entirely of some of what he's used to. I can lift, I can carry, I can get myself about. It allows me to be more of a contributor in our relationship.

Right now Joe may 'pass' as someone without disability, as someone without living in some severe pain, there are good things about 'passing' like people don't intrude into his health status with intrusive questions or give him odd medical advice. I was once told that 'cow hormones' injected regularly would help me lose weight and get me out of my chair (I shit you not). But on the other hand, people may just think that his needs are less valid because they aren't on public display.

Joe asked, "Why is that woman looking at me all annoyed?" I said, "Because she thinks I'm hot and she wants to rip me from your loving arms." He paused and said, dead serious, "Makes sense."


Anonymous said...

Equality should work both ways :-)


Eileen said...

I know how much it means to you to be able to do things for Joe and I fully understand the issues of the invisible disability. ROLL ON DAVE!!!!

Love the humour!

Anonymous said...

Love the exchange at the end!
So true the arrogance of assumptions.

AkMom said...

Love you, Love Joe!!

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

You can help Joe any time and in any way that you want and it would be none of anybody else's business! That would be part of your relationship, emphasis on "your".

It is different to have a condition that no one can see immediately. I have a lot of food allergies and they are getting worse. I feel pressured sometimes to go to restaurants for celebrations. Sometimes I can manage it but most of the time I would just rather not risk getting sick. Sometimes I have the impression that people think I am just being anti-social.


Jo Kelly said...

Why shouldn't you get his food for him? Regardless of whether he has a disability or not, seen or unseen, why do people think that you, a disabled person, are incapable of getting a plate of food for someone who is not disabled? The ultimate insult if you ask me! We are never going to have true equality until people get this concept through their thick heads!

Deb said...

Alright you scalliwag, I almost wet myself at this line, "I have never understood why those with medical degrees and the ability to diagnose by sight end up in more pedestrian jobs than their skills would indicate."

Amazing, some of these people *do* end up with medical degrees, and if they can't SEE your disability they immediately become self-qualified psychiatrists!

I'll remember to go to the ladies before I read your blog next time. (tch!)

Kristine said...

Wow, that's just insulting to both of you. Even if Joe weren't dealing with his own health issues, it wouldn't mean that you couldn't do something for him! Sometimes, I think people don't have enough of their own problems, so they have to go and make some up...

But I like your response. :)

Anonymous said...

I've been dealing with arthritis for 30 years. When I was still walking some of the time, I'd never get offers of help when I was walking, when I really could have used it. (Even though I leaned heavily on my cane). But everyone wants to help when I have the chair, and don't need it. The chair is a mobility device.. that's what it's FOR.