Wednesday, July 27, 2016

That's What Matters

"That's where I had my accident," she said, pointing to a bus stop, " I got off the bus, took a couple steps and fell straight back." We, the driver and I, were a little surprised to hear her voice as she had sat quietly while he and I gabbed about disability politics and ableism - he's really into all that stuff. We then listened to her tell her story of the day she became disabled.

She didn't know that what happened would lead to her using a power wheelchair right off. It took a couple of weeks before the damage that had happened during the fall to become fully evident. She spoke of having to adapt her apartment, make sure that she could shower and do all the bathroom stuff that people do, get used to a new way of getting around. Learning the ropes of navigating the world in a wheelchair.

Clearly she had been listening to our conversation because she started talking about her experiences with prejudice as a woman, as a visible minority, and as a wheelchair user. About how people treated her when trying to access the subway, how they yelled at her and cussed her out using her gender, her race and her disability equally in their verbal attack on her.

Then quietly, she spoke of how she resisted pressures to give up her home, to move in with relatives, to be taken care of ... she would not be anyone other than who she was. Some would see her and see fragility and they would be wrong. She had a will of iron and a determination to live her life on her own terms. That's who she was before, that's who she was now.

It's odd, she reflected, to be able to point exactly at a place and exactly state a time when life changed, but she said, "my life changed, I didn't. That's what matters.

And it is, isn't it?


Unknown said...

sounds like a very interesting morning on the bus!

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

I can tell you exactly when my first life ended, and the disabled one began: the week of Nov. 5, 1989.

It's a long story - and I'd have to go back to Anaheim to be in the same place. It makes me think every year, on the anniversary. This was not the life I planned and worked so hard for.

You don't always get to choose.

Jenni said...

It's my 3 year anniversary of being disabled on Sunday. I just woke up sick and never recovered. When I knew I was going to be a wheelchair user, I looked for blogs by wheelchair users and found yours Dave. Thanks for all the help you gave me in adjusting to my new life. xx