Sunday, December 19, 2010

Why, In My Day

We were in line.

Joe looked behind me and greeted someone, I heard a voice saying, 'It's nice to see you.' I tried to turn around to see who it was but couldn't - the line up of Christmas shoppers was long and closely packed. Turning would have been dangerous to the toes of others. When she noticed that I couldn't see her, she came round to where we were standing.

I recognized her immediately as someone who used to live in the same building where we live. She'd moved out a few months before and she was telling us about her life, now, in a seniors building. She asked where we parked the van in the downtown core. I answered that we hadn't driven down to the Eaton Center that we had 'walked' down. I didn't bother to correct her on the idea that we drive a van, it was an inconsequential point and I've let go of the need to correct things that need not be corrected. Those who bring red pencils to conversations are always tedious.

She didn't understand our answer so she asked again where we had found parking. Again I explained that we'd come down 'on foot'. She touched the arm of my wheelchair and asked if I'd come down 'in this'. I said I had indeed, that it wasn't far.

She blinked.

And blinked again.

It was like this whole new idea was having difficulty entering her mind. The mental picture wasn't coming so she asked, 'So he,' pointing to Joe, 'walks beside you as you ride along in your wheelchair?' Ah, she had it and I confirmed it.

'My,' she said.

'My, oh my,' she continued.

She shook her head as the new idea took hold. 'In my day,' she said, 'people in wheelchairs just never went out.'

'Times have changed,' I said smiling.

She nodded, 'Yes, thankfully.'

We were next to pay so we said our goodbyes. As we continued on with our shopping I thought about her surprise at my freedom. It was good to meet her. It was good to be reminded that my 'freedom' is not something to be taken for granted. That not even a generation ago people 'like me' didn't live lives 'like me' at all. Locked away. Living indoors. Life proscribed.

I live with freedom unknown years ago.



Brenda said...

Amen, and Amen.

Andrea S. said...

Stories like this make me wish that disability history was considered a part of mainstream history and was taught as part of the ordinary curriculum in schools so we all could learn more about what changes have (or haven't) occurred in the lives of people with disabilities throughout the generations, decades, years. I think many of today's younger people with disabilities (and non-disabled peers) don't fully understand how dramatic some of the changes over time have been and the cost that disability rights advocates of the past had to pay for pushing to make these changes happen.

Meredith said...

People are always amazed that I walk alongside my boyfriend as he wheels himself. Where else would I go?

Anonymous said...

This has given me a different perspective. Often, strangers, or bare acquaintances, will see me out in my chair and say something like, "It's so good to see you out!"

This often confuses me, because I have to guess whether I know them and they know that it's hard for me to get out, or whether they are just responding to my being visibly disabled.

I have given up pretending to being cognitively functional, so I just ask if I know them. If it turns out I don't, I tend to get ticked off because my friends in chairs get the same comments.

It never occurred to me that some people, who are older, might have the perspective of this woman you know. OTOH, most of the people who make these comments are my age or younger.

Still, I am moved by your open-heartedness and ability not to correct people.