When I was growing up, I’d never have used the words “proud” and “disability” in the same sentence. Nowadays they fit together nicely sometimes. During this week:
On Easter I had a twelve-hour intestinal bug that laid me low. I was well nursed by my Seeing Eye dog who sniffed my breath and my other end to make her nursing assessments of how sick I was. When I was truly sick she left me to sleep checking on me occasionally but not demanding any unnecessary attention. When she thought I had returned to the living, she asked for more interaction. She was hired because of her guiding skills because of my blindness, but the nursing attention came as a bonus, as well as the friendship, love, playfulness, etc. I’m proud to have been a guide dog user for forty years.
Fully recovered the next day, I talked about Occupying Aging with a group of a dozen people who have various lung diseases of serious natures. We laughed and shed some tears together about the ups and downs of living in the real world with disabilities. I wouldn’t have been part of this fine group of humans if I didn’t have a disability and hadn’t written my book.
Afterwards I enjoyed a fine Chinese dinner courtesy of the gal who invited me to the group. She has Parkinson’s but still can drive and strongly offered me rides as needed. I’ll probably take her up on the offer some time because she’s paying forward for when she’ll need rides and I respect that thinking.
Then I listened to an Indian-American comic on his delightful observations on being a minority. Waiting For 2042 by Hari Kondabolu is his CD, available from Amazon for about ten bucks. Ethnic minorities encounter many of the same interaction issues like being stereotyped that people with disabilities do. His riff on what jobs people think he has because he’s Indian-American made me roar. Having had people assume I can sing, or teach blind people, I can relate!
The next day I finished reading Ben Mattlin’s memoir Miracle Boy Grows Up: How the Disability Rights Revolution Saved My Sanity. He’s also a comic of sorts and a truth-teller of his disability experience with a disease that leaves him using an electric wheelchair with mouth controls to live his life as a father, husband and public radio writer. Recently I also read I’m Walking as Straight as I Can: Transcending Disability in Hollywood and Beyond by Geri Jewell, a comic and actress who has cerebral palsy. Her story of coming to grips with being gay and having cerebral palsy in Tinsel town made for interesting reading. Reading books like these reminds me I’m part of a group, disabled people, who were late to the civil rights/human rights revolutions of last century but who can take pride in our work for access and inclusion.
I rounded off the week with a talk to fifty seniors looking forward to occupying aging with disabilities or who at least want to be able to help their friends do it with grace and style. Then I played Scrabble for the fundraiser for the local literacy organization and gave away large print books at an assisted living facility for World Book Night. I do both of these projects because reading is such a huge good part of my life that I want all to be able to share the love of reading. I think having had limited access to books as a child because of blindness makes me treasure them now even more.
To polish off a wonderful week, I got to play Audio Darts (the board tells you where your dart lands). It was on my bucket list of things I wanted to try in my life and one of my dear friends took me to Minneapolis to do it. It was great fun and made me proud to meet the blind gal and her sighted husband who invented and marketed the board. http://www.audiodartmaster.com