Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Another Farewell

This evening a group of people will get together, in one of Tessa's favourite spots in the city, and remember her life and her contributions. We won't be there, we're hours north doing training. We'd had a chat with Tessa while she was in the hospital and she told us, graciously, that she knew we may be travelling when the service happened - we were not to worry or to stress about not being there. Our work was important. She knew that we would remember her in our own way and in our own time.

Tessa was the first friend I made, after I became disabled, who also had a mobility disability. She used a scooter, I used a power chair. She was new to the 'concept' of disability and therefore even though she had been officially disabled longer than I had - she knew little of disability politics or disability identity. But let me tell you, as a 'old feminist', as she referred to herself, she took to these ideas like a duck to water. She began exploring her world in a much more adventuresome way.

I remember her first subway ride of the scooter. She was scared spitless but she held on to her scooter and flew on to the subway car. She was exhilarated at her own courage - she was doing what she never thought she could. She'd given up on going to the movies, she had no idea that she'd be able to go in and park her scooter. As a non-disabled woman she hadn't noticed that there were places and spaces for people who move differently. Her first movie in years was one of the Harry Potter films. She was awed by how big the movies had become - she loved it.

We, Tessa and I, formed a voting block so that we could always outvote Joe ... who slowed us up by walking. We teased him about being in the minority when we were out. It was all in good fun though. It was just nice to be able to play with the idea of being different and being in control. It was fun.

As Tessa got sicker we took on the role of helpful neighbour and would often shop for her. Joe and I began cooking larger meals and taking her over a serving of soup or stew or casserole. We had similar tastes in food, but it did take her a bit to get used to vegetarian cooking. In the end, she was just eating Popsicles and yogurt. She joked once that she had moved into 'Mr. Roger's neighbourhood. I joked that I'd moved into a crippled ghetto.

It meant so much to me to have someone to share the disability experience with. We went out for tea at least once a week, when we were home, and she always had a tale of dealing with real world situations and people ... she was finding her voice as a disabled woman. She was beginning to realize that she need not feel grateful for what others took for granted. Her disability identity informed her in the same way feminism had inspired her. 'I am woman, hear my scooter roar!'

Yesterday when leaving to go north for work, we ran into people moving big pieces of furniture out of her apartment. She loved that place. She loved her life there. It's hard to describe how powerful it was to see a cabinet being carted down the hallway to the waiting elevator. It signified the end of an era, an end to a friendship.

Tonight when they all say goodbye, and tell a story or two, Joe and I will do the same.


It's all we can do for her now.


Anonymous said...

Oh Dave,

I have not commented on your last posts but I like them very very much!


GirlWithTheCane said...

It sounds like she was a wonderful woman.

Kristin said...

Abiding with you. You and oe have been in my thoughts a lot lately with all the losses you've dealt with.

Andrea S. said...

Reading what you have written about how Tessa embraced the concept of disability pride makes me wish we had a better way to reach out to all the many grassroots people with disabilities who are still out there who have never really had any contact with the disability community and have never heard of terms like "medical model versus social model of disability" much less the concepts behind them. How do we find them and reach them? How do we help expose them to the concepts that many of us with longer experience in the disability community take for granted, such as the idea that when we are excluded from certain kinds of experiences it is not simply because of their disability but also that others have not designed the environment with us in mind, or have not thought to take the time to include us?

I think of the people I have come to know through the cross-disability community, and also within the signing, culturally Deaf community (Deaf with a big D is used by Deaf people who identify ourselves with a cultural community and linguistic minority). Then I think of the people out there who are still isolated from that community, who think it is their obligation to fit in, who may even fear the disability community because they think that joining it will somehow isolate them from the "real world" instead of helping connect them to it. And it makes me frustrated.

Liz Miller said...

Thinking of you

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

Thinking of you and Joe as you remember your friend Tessa.


Jay said...

Thinking and praying with you in your loss. I'm a long time reader, but because I've been starting my day at work with your reflections, I usually don't comment. Today I'm on furlough due to the Minnesota state government shut-down, and wanted to take a moment to thank you for all of your reflections on living in disability community.

Kristine said...

For the record, I'm not a crier. I'm just not. So HOW do you get me to cry about people I've never even met?

Thinking of you.

Belinda said...

The mental image of furniture being moved out of an apartment--it makes me think of how this comes to all of us one day. All the things we sold ourselves for--they really don't matter in the end--just relationship.