Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Explosive Knowledge and the Love of Auntie Gladys

 I spoke to my Auntie Gladys only two days ago. I had been trying to get in touch with her ever since she entered the hospice where she had gone from the hospital. Even though I rang several times, the phone wasn't answered. I had heard from my brother that Auntie Gladys was very weak and needed assistance with the phone, I had to call and hope that one of her family or someone from the hospice was there to help her. I took a shot on Tuesday and the phone was answered by a nice woman who got the phone over to her. 

The voice I heard was barely recognizable, it was so weak and it seemed impossible it came from such a vital, powerful, woman. When I told her my name she didn't recognize it and instead asked if I was coming that day. I told her that I lived in Toronto and that fact didn't help her to catch my memory. Later, I mentioned Joe, Auntie Gladys always liked Joe, and that was it. The key. The pebble. She said, ""Joe!" "Dave and Joe" oh my hello" Joe and I both spoke to her and then we were on firmer footing.

I spent a little time telling her that I had such fond memories of her throughout my life, that she had enriched not only my life but our lives. She responded, "Yes, they are good memories aren't they." Besides 'bye, now' those were the last words that Auntie Gladys said to me. She died the following day.

After hanging up the phone, I thought about the fact that Aunt Gladys remembered me through Joe. It struck me that she was the second person in my family who knew about our relationship. That knowledge, that explosive knowledge, had no power that would change her view that I was still her nephew. She kept my secret until keeping it was no longer necessary.

I read again today that parents still, routinely, throw their kids to the streets once they know of their difference. It seems that their hearts simply weren't big enough, or strong enough to withstand the blast. Explosive knowledge had nothing on my Auntie Gladys, and I will forever be grateful to her because of it.

Monday, May 03, 2021

Next!

 We were standing in a line-up ready to check our groceries through. We'd waited about ten minutes and were now next in line. I could see the cashier finishing up and I knew once she'd cleaned the area we'd be good to go. Then out of nowhere a woman appeared, she wore flappable as if it was a couture line, she had in her hands a pre-wrapped sandwich, a bottle of water, and a fancy cupcake. She approached me and asked if she could go next, she had just a few things, then it all poured out.

It was short-staffed where she worked and her lunch hour was reduced to only the time it took to get something. "I never thought about the line-ups here, I should have thought of them, but really I have to get back, there are people depending on me." I glanced over at Joe and he smiled and we both agreed she should go ahead. She stepped in front of me just as it was time for her to go up and pay.

We heard it first, angry breathing, it was coming from the woman behind us in the line-up. She was some mad. As soon as we had eye contact, she lit into me, told me that I had no right to let that woman go in front of me, that my decision affected everyone waiting patiently in the queue. I registered shock on my face and said, "It was only a few things and she was pressured to get back to work. "How is that my fault?" she asked.

"It's not your fault, I said, "it was your cue to be kind."

Then, I was called up. We pulled our cart over to the side and said to her, "Go ahead, I inconvenienced you, this will hopefully make up for it.

She looked a bit chastened, but she went ahead.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

I AM TOO

 While there are a lot of downsides to living a virtual life, confining one's face and one's passion into a computer screen, there are upsides too. About three months ago I met someone on Facebook and we've been chatting ever since. I'm not sure how he found me or why he messaged me but he did. I get a lot of unsolicited messages on Facebook and can't keep with the volume, but this one caught me, "IS IT OKAY FOR ME TO BE ANGRY AT SOMEONE?" That was it, I was intrigued. I checked the profile and saw that he was a man with Down Syndrome from the coast of British Columbia.

I responded, "Yes it's okay to feel all your feelings, including anger. Can I ask what made you feel angry?"

"YOU WON'T GET MAD WILL YOU? PEOPLE GET ANGRY WITH ME FOR FEELING ANGRY."

Okay then, let's slow this down a bit. "No, I won't get angry at you for feeling anger, I may be concerned what you do with your anger, but I won't be mad. Oh, and can you write me back without all caps? It's like you are shouting."

"I never hit people, even when I'm angry."

"Good on you, so are you going to tell me what made you angry?"

I don't hear back from him for several days. I thought that I had stuck my nose in and scared him off. I figured if I hadn't heard in a week, I'd write and apologize. He has a right to anger, sure, but he also has the right to privacy.

"Just as the week was ending he wrote back. "I don't like what they do with their eyes."

"Are you talking about being stared at?"

"YES."

He then described to me a life of difference and how that difference was like a magnet pulling attention to him. He said when he goes grocery shopping people stare, ALL THE TIME, ALL THE TIME, ALL THE TIME.

And that makes him angry. He also told me that his staff doesn't like it when he wants to talk about it and they tell him to just ignore it. "I just can't," he said.

"Last time a group of teenagers stared at me, I got angry. I told them that they were rude and should be ashamed of themselves. Then I stood there and stared at them. They tried to make me stop but I didn't. They just left."

"I got punished for not being appropriate in the community, but I don't care, THEY weren't being appropriate."

Then after a second. "Are you mad at me?"

"No," I wrote back, "I'm really proud of you."

"I am to." he said and then for emphasis, "I AM TOO."



Wednesday, April 28, 2021

This morning

 

Image description: a cartoon bird asks 'what are you throwing away' as s/he watches another bird moving boxes with wrapping that says things like 'not good enough,' ugly,' 'failure,' that bird says 'oh, just some old ideas and beliefs that were taking up too much space.(I do not own and did not create this image, I can't cite the source ... If the owner wants it removed please contact me in the comments)

This morning I was awakened by our new neighbour, I looked at the clock and it was just after 4 in the morning. "Getting an early start on the day?" I thought as I snuggled deeper into my blankets and pillow. But. I was awake, groggy, but awake and my mind started to wander as it does. I found that I needed to do some shifting of the boxes that fill up my heart and mind.

Last evening we had had dinner with Marissa and the girls. I hadn't seen them in a few weeks and my gosh are they tall! Not to worry we are following lockdown rules. Joe and I are very careful about going out and any interactions that we have while out. Marrissa and the kids are the same, we all respect this virus and know that caution is our best defence. And of course, we numbered 5 the legal limit.

Joe and I had planned to show them something we found on the BroadwayHD channel called "the Going Wrong Show". Each episode is about a play put on by a community theatre group that goes horribly wrong. It's devastatingly funny. We got it all set up and then, hoping against hope that they'd like it, we pressed play. Well, it was like a laughter bomb had gone off in here, the girls laughed long and loud and completely unrestrained. Of course, we did too, having seen it before was not even slightly like seeing it with others.

We were drained ... yes, we served ham for dinner. Appropriate, no?

That memory was with me as I surveyed the work that I had to do. I found built-up resentment that had to be moved, pessimism that needed to be moved to make way for the door to joy which had become blocked, it took some time but I got up feeling like important work had been done. I listened again to my neighbour, chirping way from the branch just outside our window and I'm sure the song sung was sweeter.

Laughter isn't just a release, it's also a request to reexamine your life and your attitude and your beliefs. Sometimes we all carry with us things best left behind.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Bring Light

 The task was to make scalloped potatoes. I had been putting off even going into the kitchen knowing that there was a big bag of spuds waiting for me. So, I distracted myself by browsing through my emails. Then, just as I turned to finally get started at the peeling and slicing that awaited me, my computer phone rang. We seldom, if ever, get calls through the computer so I glanced to see who was calling.

The call was from a man with Down Syndrome who I had met years ago in Wales. He and a couple of other folks with disabilities had come to a training that I was doing. We all hit it off and ended up with our host (Hi Jayne) and my caller and two friends in a pub having lunch. We were loud and a bit raucous but then again so was the pub, we expanded to fit the space we were in. Joe and I remember this particular lunch fondly and talk about it often.

So Stephen all these years later decided it was time to give us a call. I can't tell you how nice it was to hear his voice and, once again, laugh together. He's a lovely and funny guy. But more than that, he's a thoughtful man. We talked about the pandemic and compared our lockdown in Ontario with his freedom in Wales.We all agreed that it had been too long since we last talked.

When I hung up I felt ... happier.

That wee bit of connection, that evidence of caring, that moment where it felt like we fell into warm memories, was lovely. It was a gift, unexpected. But it was a gift, so welcomed. I need to remind myself that sometimes it just takes a moment to show someone that you care and think about them, it doesn't take much. If in dark times we can bring light, then bring light.

In the kitchen, right after his call, I chopped all these potatoes, and onions, thinking, not about the task, but about our time in Wales and about Stephen and his friends and about the amazing place we stayed at there. That one call turned around my day and took me in a different, and better, way.

Bring light.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

The Air

 We had arranged to go shopping a few days ago, booking an appointment with the accessible bus system up here, and were having a relaxing cup of tea when there was a knock on the door. It was the driver who had arrived an hour and 20 minutes early. He said he would wait but we rushed around and were out to the van about ten minutes later. We arrived at the grocery store and pulled out our list of things we needed and began about the business of getting it done.

After we went through check out there was still an hour before the bus home was to arrive. Luckily it was a warm sunny day so we went outside and found a spot where Joe could sit and I could park my wheelchair. The way we ended up was that Joe sat beside the cart and I was in my chair across from him. Being that it was a wide sidewalk this left lots of room for people to walk by.

I felt the sun on me and enjoyed its warmth. I had to fight off the nap that was creeping through my shoulders but I did slide down a bit in my chair. People walked by and said hello or smiled, it was nice to be in and of the community. It was nice.

Then a woman about our age walked by and growled at us, actually growled at us, admonishing us for 'taking up the entire sidewalk' and 'making nuisances of ourselves.' It happened so swiftly and came from nowhere. The air which had been sweetly scented with welcome and friendliness suddenly  took on the bitter smell of anger and rejection

After it was over Joe and I found ourselves wishing the bus would arrive and we could get out of their.

Her attitude and demeanor managed to take a lovely moment and make it an ugly one.

There are too many of these people in our lives, avoid them.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Joy

 For all of my employed life, I have focused forward. I never worked a day in my life that wasn't aimed at a particular goal. This served me well in two ways. First, it gave me focus and purpose and for me that's always been a mighty combination. Second, looking forward meant not having to look back. I have a troublesome relationship with the past, I didn't want to have to confront the painful things I experienced. I didn't want to acknowledge the painful things I have done to others. So yeah, face forward and follow the vision was a good strategy for me.

Even as I moved into retirement, I'm still working, mostly lecturing but also some consulting as well. This has made the transition to 'restful relaxation' possible. It's also nice to have focus and purpose alongside the multivitamins to take in the morning. Retiring into a pandemic wasn't wise planning though. I have a lot of free time and I don't really go anywhere.

About a month ago I found myself sitting in my easy chair hoving above a snooze. That morning I had chatted briefly with Ruby and Sadie and I found myself remembering. I could feel the weight of each of them as they rested in my arms. So small. So trusting. So easy to love. I relaxed into the memories of each of them. And I was comforted by them, the sounds and smells of those days and the laughter that came easily from them.

Then riding down a hill here in Newmarket I suddenly flashed on the silliness of the crookedest street in the world, a San Francisco landmark. The first time Joe and I saw it we were so profoundly disappointed for a few seconds, then having had testosterone for breakfast, we decided to see how fast we could get through the curves. Joe took the challenge seriously and screamed tires a couple of times, or maybe that was me screaming in the passenger seat. It was like a carnival ride.

Last night we had nachos, as I looked at the plate I was reminded of the nachos we had in Halifax, the best one's I've ever had. I can remember the restaurant we had them in and then remembered the people we had met there. It was like rapid-fire memory.

All of this has surprised me. I've been so fearful of the past that I had not noted, that there were good things there too. I had confined too much to disregard.

So, I'm working on ways to keep myself safe from the part of my past that burns while exploring that which gives me joy. 

Much more joy than I ever anticipated.