Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Question

I'd never seen her before. She was sitting on one of the chesterfields in the lobby. Placed in front of her was a shiny new walker. By the tires, I'd say it hasn't yet been used out of doors. Right now I'm reading a book set in medieval Norway, in the book the author often describes one of the characters as being frail, thus I thought of this woman as frail in the medieval sense of the word. I was waiting for Joe to come downstairs to go out. This was before he took sick and locked himself in the apartment for the duration of the holidays - right now he kind of looks 20th century frail. Anyways, she looked busting to say something so I gave her an opening. I pointed to the window and said, 'It looks could outside.'

'I'm not usually here this time of year,' she said proudly.

'Oh,' I said, once again remarking what a wonderful word that is, what secret meanings can be hidden in a single sound.

'Yes, I'm usually somewhere warmer.'


'But I had a hip replaced a few months ago and now the other one needs doing.'

'Oh.' This may not seem like I'm a sparkling conversationalist but trust me, she was fully engaged.

'Yes, and now that I'm crippled, I've been housebound.'

'Oh.' I flinched because she didn't use the word in the way disabled activists use it, she used is as a means of describing herself in a derogatory fashion. They should give the recently disabled an instruction book or something.

'This is my first time out in months, and it's just to the lobby.'

'Oh.' This fell silently between us so I picked up the conversation, 'I'll bet you are learning to see the world in a whole new way.'

'What do you mean by that? I don't see the world at all.' She looked angry. Like I was some kind of dunce that didn't get what her experience was. But really, I remember being laid up in a hospital room, unable to walk, unable to stand or balance. I remember learning so much about myself and the world and the interrelationship between the two.

'Oh,' I said unable or unwilling or both to become instructive or maybe I just didn't want to risk sharing my experience with someone who I didn't think wanted the sharing.

Whatever, Joe arrived and we left.

I said, 'You know, disability is really wasted on the intellectually lazy.'

'What do you mean by that?' he said.

I'm curious, does that statement make any sense to you, as readers, cause it sure does to me.


J. said...

It makes perfect sense to me.

Kristin said...

It absolutely makes sense to me.

Belinda said...

It sounds as though much is wasted on this lady and the phrase sums it up succinctly!

Clay said...

I understand it. But why did you miss the opportunity to enlighten her, just a little? Somebody's got to, she's feeling mighty sorry for herself.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Hi Clay, fair question that. It's just sometimes I don't feel like I'm up to the task that I'm facing and other times I just want to go about my day ... I don't need or want 'meaning' in every interaction. In a different mood on a different day, I'd indeed handle this differently. But sometimes, I guess, my need to be out without responsibiltiy, takes priority. It did that day.

Stephanie said...

It makes sense with several interpretations. Introspection and growing awareness being ideal, but also the creativity to overcome the challenges presented by the new situation.

But then, I would say the intellectual laziness risks losing out on whatever opportunities for growth and development life throws at us.

Anonymous said...

The wheeliecrone says -
Yes. Oh Hell, yes.
There are some of us who refuse to learn anything about anything when they have a disability. What a wasted opportunity for that woman!
It possible that she simply shut her mind at a certain point in her life. There are quite a few people who do that.

painting with fire said...

Sounds like she's invested so much in self-pity that she's shut off her brain. Not uncommon under lots of circumstances but not very productive either.

I can entirely understand not feeling like you have to be her teacher - you're not on duty every minute of the day!

Brenda said...

Yup - makes perfect sense. But I don't think that it's only disability that is wasted on the intellectually lazy. I think Socrates had it right when he said "The unexamined life is not worth living." Whether disabled or not, isn't any life richer when we choose to learn from it?

Heather said...

Maybe she is a bit depressed or having a bad day.
I forgive her and feel a bit sad for her lack of imagination but I've had days where I couldn't see the wood for the trees. Mind you I probably wouldn't have gone to the lobby those days.
Maybe next time you see her she'll be outside sitting?
Here's hoping.

Bibliotekaren said...

Just a respectful contrarian voice here. Dave, I really enjoy your blog and look forward to your posts. However, the forms of disability that you focus on are folks who have opportunity to engage in the world, even when those are rough encounters. "Housebound" is a whole different type of adjustment.

Some folks' disability is about organ failures, brutally persistent illness, and inability to get out and engage in the world. For younger and middle-aged folks, they often embrace online communities and find great companionship there. However, that's not the case for all.

I don't know anything about this lady. Does she perhaps live alone? Is she old enough where the online community isn't something she has in her life? Maybe she has no family in the area and her friends are all in the warmer region to which she referred? So, maybe her negativity towards being crippled was that had introduced a stifling loneliness into her life?

I think you're being a wee judgmental not knowing her situation. Again, I enjoy your blog.


Moose said...

Oh, YES.

If I had a dime for every temporarily disabled person who lectured me on how to be disabled and what it's like, I'd, well, I'd have at least enough for a nice meal.

So few of them see what life is like for many on a permanent basis. To them it's just a temporary inconvenience, a troublesome problem that will eventually go away.

The only thing worse is when they offer their pity. "Oh you poor thing," they say, "I am suffering just this past week. You simply must be so MISERABLE to have to live this life every single day!"

Generally, I want to respond, "Bite me."

Dave Hingsburger said...

Bibliotekaren, I certain respect respectful disagreement and welcome another point of view to the discussion. I'm not sure that I was being all that judgemental - but perhaps I was. I'll think about it. Thanks.

Clay said...

Old lady said:
"What do you mean by that? I don't see the world at all."

Your room is in the world, you're just seeing a smaller part of it, which is a different way of seeing it than you're used to.

I hope you have some assistance, but is there anyone who could assist you in getting out for a short walk, maybe to go for a ride, even? Trust me, I know what it's like to be housebound. It sucks. You need to try to change that, if you can.

If she holds still for that, you might ask if she's sure there's no way she could get on a plane to fly to Florida, or Phoenix. I wonder if she's considered a wheelchair to make things more accessible, or if she's deadset against such a thing?

Sher said...

Absolute sense! One chooses how one handles the curves that life throws us. We can always learn something about ourselves and the world around us if we so choose. We can also always stay stuck in our thinking and wallow because of the curves. It's always a choice. Otherwise how do you explain terminal patients who are positive? Or people with incredible challenges who face the day with a smile? It's their choice.

Molly said...

Love it! and totally get what you are saying!!!

It's wasted on the people who don't realize how different the world is, process it, syntasize it, and then change it.

Shan said...

Oh for goodness' sake! Listen to all these negative comments. Everybody jumping to conclusions. "She shut down", "She's feeling mighty sorry for herself" and "the unexamined life is not worth living", for God's sake. Give people a chance to learn and grow! An elder, who is suddenly not able for what she used to be, and she's in pain, I guarantee you she's SCARED.

Dave, you describe her as angry - well, angry comes from SCARED. For all we know, she is lying awake in the middle of the night wondering if this is the beginning of the end. And that's totally valid. Loss of mobility DOES lead to other health problems for the elderly. Ever heard of "sarcopenia"? Somebody in the comments said "maybe she's having a bad day." HELLO, TWO hip replacements: A bad day? YA THINK?!

So....I guess I am a dissenter too.

And I shouldn't read blogs on top of three glasses of wine and a neat brandy. I see that now.

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

It could be that she is so invested in the anti-disability sentiments of our society that she can't get beyond that. I agree with Shan - she may be scared and it is really hard to get beyond that.

I remember my own grandmother when she was losing her vision and hearing at the same time - she was full of self-pity and feeling "useless" - she had looked after other people her whole life and suddenly it was her who needed some looking after - that was hard for her to accept. She had to redefine her place in the world - she eventually did that and then dementia hit - I think it was Betty Davis who said that getting old it not for sissies - too true! So maybe this woman was incapable of introspection and maybe she was just scared - tough call when I wasn't there!

Sorry to read that Joe is feeling ill - wishes for a speedy recovery, Joe!

Anonymous said...

My daughter has Ds. And it has absolutely opened my eyes to many things. I hope it does the same for my husband, but I fear he may be in the group you speak of. Still, I am hopeful that one day he will see how the same kind of broad and hurtful statements that can be made about our daughter, also shouldn't be made about other groups, whether they be disabled, gay, or of a different race.