Invisible Fences

It was one of those glorious Sunday afternoons.  The sun taking no time to make known its ability to enforce the dress code of the day, and I was right there along with the rest of the crowd with my hat, sun screen, and umbrella.

I was at a family gathering.  Didn’t matter that it was a baseball game.  Yes, I am one of those people who doesn’t really care for baseball.  I know, I know, it’s America’s favorite pastime.  Or, so I’ve heard all of my life.  Nevertheless, even though I am a born and bred American, it is not my favorite.  Honestly, it would never even appear on any things-to-do list of mine.

Yet, there I was with the gang watching baseball.  And, I wasn’t only sitting there passing time until it was over.  Nope.  I was yelling and whooping.  Yes, I had become a fan in a few short moments.  Mimicking the guy behind me, I called out such terms as, “Good eye.”  (Huh?  Good eye?)  What happened?  My grandson was playing.

Funny how one’s perspective can change with the slightest alteration in circumstances.  It happens all the time.  We just don’t notice until something unique comes along – such as my grandson being part of a baseball team.  Surely changed my perspective on baseball.  (I am even planning on traveling three hours each way just to watch him play in another game tomorrow.)

There is another area where my perspective has changed, also.  It is the number of invisible fences that the mobility-challenged face every day, every where.

For example, the playoff park where my grandson was playing, on that beautiful, summer day, was designed with thoughtful consideration of handicapped people.  The bleachers had sections carved out for wheelchairs; there was an additional restroom large enough for a wheelchair; plenty of handicap parking spaces; and expansive, concrete sidewalks.  All this fabulous planning and accommodation helped make my day more enjoyable.

However, challenges still needed to be faced.  Even though the bleacher stands sat on a concrete pad, the sidewalk ended 25 feet short of the stands.  In between?   A sea of rough, uneven gravel.  To make matters worse, on one side were the bleacher stands and on the other side were the restrooms, food stand, and parking lot.  Having the wheels of an electric wheelchair (550 pounds unoccupied) spin in gravel is akin to a car stuck in the snow.  I can’t even imagine how difficult it would be for someone using a walker.

The clincher (it’s a baseball term, right?) came at the end of the game when the team met for the coach’s pep talk (or whatever it is they say at the end of a game).  It is that time when praises are given and awards are handed out.  Only, the dugout was another sea of gravel away.

So, there we sat, my grandson’s paternal grandfather and I (his maternal grandmother), watching everyone else gather together as we were left behind another invisible fence.

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Do You See What I See?

 

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Faces?  Vases?

 

Initially, which did you see?  How long did it take until you could see both easily and clearly?

Our eyes see more than our brain interprets.  Visual cues all around us are being filtered out, and our awareness is limited to our experiences.

When you encounter a set of stairs leading to a building, what do you see?  How about a soap dispenser attached to the wall above a sink?  What about a store’s double-door entry with no handicap button?  The last question gave it away, right?

If you are ambulant, then you probably don’t give much thought when encountering the above situations.  Oh, you might have a conscious thought as you grab for the handrail, but you probably don’t even see anything worth noting.  For the wheelchair roamer, we see obstacles.  In fact, the situation may be so unsolvable (e.g., stairs and no ramp) that we have to change our plans and turn away.  And that it how it feels.  We are turned away from participating, turned away because we are powerless, turned away because of an oversight.

“(A) public meeting on accessible housing for the disabled in Toronto had to be canceled because the building that was hosting it was not accessible to the disabled.  ‘There was an oversight,’ one official conceded.”  (The Week, December 23/30, 2016, p 6)

 

 

 

The Gift

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Clunk. 

Laying the book down on her lap, she turned her head so that her good ear was aimed toward the sound.

Again, another clunk.  

Not knowing what else she could do, she waited with the still patience of a deer in the woods; her heart pounding as if it were the instrument of a mad drummer.

Then, her husband called out, “I’m home.  Where are you?”

“Upstairs,” she replied putting her hand to her chest.  “In the pink bedroom.  You’re home early.”

“Yeah, the meeting ended earlier and traffic was light.  I’ll be up in a minute.”

A smile played its own rhythm across her face as she swept her hand through her gray hair.  I’m glad he’s home early.

As the minutes passed, the sharp clank of dishes revealed the location of his delay.  As she was wondering what could he possibly be doing in the kitchen, he suddenly appeared in the doorway.  There he stood looking like a high school suitor with a vase of flowers held out; the wrinkles around his eyes made him all the more charming.

“A gift of lovely flowers for a lovely lady,” he crooned as he placed the vase on her nightstand.

“As I was driving, I found myself getting excited as the miles brought me closer to home.  I know you have been having a hard time lately thinking about all the extra work that falls on me because of your disease.  The more I thought about it, the more I thought about you.  Because of you, I am a better person.  Because of you, I wake up every morning with a smile on my face.  Because of you, I love being married.  I love you, and given the choice, I would marry you again – wheelchair and all.  You. . .you are a gift to me.”

 

 

 

The Invisible Woman

Rose Wolfe

I have the unique ability to be invisible.  For a while, I thought it was because I am shorter than most adults.

If that is true, I thought, how is it that children are not bulldozed down into the ground?  Maybe, I reasoned, that is why kids have such high voices; it is a survival mechanism to alert adults around them that they are “down here.”  Eventually, I came suspect that something else is going on – a societal preference.  Our mores define children as needing protection and consideration.  So, we notice them; we see them.  The same is not true for the disAbled; our societal position is muddied and conflicting.  As a society, we nod our heads with smug smiles agreeing that the disabled should be treated with respect.

As a wheelchair occupant, I can tell you that society does not often practice what it preaches.  I will admit that a small segment of people will notice me and make accommodations.  However, navigating the streets, stores, and social situations is a burdensome task.  All my plans and movements must – and I do mean must – include me being responsible for everyone in my vicinity because I do not exist.  Sounding alarms as I wheel with the foot traffic, I need to watch for cigarettes, purses, bags, and people who swerve in front of me.  Without as much as a blush to the cheek, they admit, “Oh, I didn’t see you.”

You might think this is as humiliating as it can get, but no.  Worse yet are the times that I am scorned for being invisible.

Recently, my husband and I spent the day in Chicago at Navy Pier.  I was sitting out of the major pedestrian traffic path, but still blocking a small walkway.  (I have to sit somewhere.)  With a quick step and an urgency of importance swirling about her, a woman came straight towards me.  She came to a screeching halt (I heard her brakes squeal) as my invisibility faded away.  With furrowed brow and lips, she waved her hand as if swatting an annoying insect (speaking is difficult with a frowning mouth) for me to move.  Realizing that I had become visible, I turned on my wheelchair.  (Let me give you some inside information, electric wheelchairs take about five seconds to charge up before they are operational.)  Well, the necessary five seconds was too long for her.  Miss I Can’t Wait Because I Have Important Things to Do, huffed and puffed (was she about to blow me away?), told me to move (without wanting to hear that I needed to wait for my wheelchair), stomped about (was she ready to stampede me?), and then turned sharply to her left, took three steps, and walked (or should I say charged?) past me.

With her went my moment of visibility, and I retreated once again to wait for the next moment.

 

Freedom and Bitterness

 

9/22/2016 “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” – Nelson Mandela

via Bitterness — Eyes + Words

 

The above photo and quote are reblogged from the Eyes & Words blog site.

In 1962, Nelson Mandela, an anti-apartheid activist in South Africa, was sentenced to life for conspiring to overthrow the state.  Due to international pressure and fear of a racial civil war, he was released after serving 27 years in prison.

 

Even though he had justifiable reasons to be angry and to encourage his supporters to seek retribution, he chose the path less traveled.  His decision to forgive and forge forward is helped him to be a great leader.  We all could stand to learn from his example.

Often, we imprison ourselves by our perceptions, attitudes, and thoughts.  We react to situations rather than respond.  Whatever situation you are facing right now, the choice is yours.

Do you choose bitterness or freedom?

For more of Eyes + Words blog posts, click here

Looking Through a Glass Darkly

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You just might be wrong.

Because you believe something doesn’t make it true.  Your perception is a reality, not the reality.

Take my uncle for example.  Diagnosed with myotonic dystrophy in his 40s, he was scuttled off to live with his 82-year-old mother.  As soon as he heard the news, he was done.  It was his free ticket to sit all day, watching television, while his mother did all the work. He did nothing – not one thing.

For four years she waited on him.  By the time my grandmother was 86, she needed help herself. So, we made room, and they came to live with my family and me.  Four adults and two children in a three-bedroom ranch. The roles were modified. Now, my grandmother and uncle both sat and watched television from morning to night. They did notPerception
participate in any family events. They did not want to do anything. They did nothing – not one thing. I did all the work. It was okay with me. I did it because it needed to be done. No expectations and no rewards.

So, what was my motivation?  My grandmother and uncle needed help. Neither one had ever been kind to me. It was a fact. I didn’t care. The relationships were determined the moment I was born. (Probably before I was born.)

What does this have to do with truth and perception?  My uncle was a skeptic.  He would tell me I had an ulterior motive. “What motive could I have?” I would ask. “You have nothing. Grandma has nothing.  I am taking care of you because you need a caregiver.”  He never answered the question. He refused to believe that I took them in because they needed help.  He would not (could not?) understand that their lack of grace towards me did not determine my actions towards them.  He could only see life as a reflection of himself.

Grandma’s point of view?  I don’t know.  She would tell me stories of her life. In all of them, she was the sad victim.  I would wipe her tears.  Unhappy and dissatisfied, she looked at life through a glass streaked and stained with misery.

Today, I live wiPerception_edited-2th myotonic dystrophy.  I do not sit all day watching television.  I write, read, and paint.  In addition, I visit people and invite people into my home.  I attend church, a writer’s group, and a painting class.  What do I see?  Hope and love.  Why?  Because my belief is based on a faith in God.

 

The Unfinished Portrait

Unfinished Portrait
For the last three months, I have been working on a portrait.  It is still in process; an unfinished, challenging, ongoing, all-encompassing activity.  In fact, it is a series of problem-solving steps.  Every brush stroke is a considered motion.  Ahead of that, there is the choice of hue, value, and type of brush for each stroke.

Yet, before I even contemplated the paint colors, I needed to have a vision of what I wanted to paint.  After some time spent looking through photographs (life model was not available), I made my decision.  Finally, I knew what I wanted to paint, who I wanted to paint, and what I wanted the painting to look like when I finished.

This brings me to today.  Just as with any creative process, there is labor.  Oil painting is something I love to do; nevertheless, there is frustration and aggravation.  When I am not painting, my mind often wanders back to the canvas.  In fact, I take several photos so that I can examine the current state of my painting.  What can I do better?  Where are the problems?  How can I improve the image?

I have probably wiped down and scraped off more paint than is currently on the canvas.  In fact, I am positive of it.  Some of what I rubbed off was good.  Indeed, one image was beautiful.  Nevertheless, it did not reflect my plan.  A portrait is more than capturing the likeness of the person; it is an attempt to capture the character of the individual.

We have all see portraits of dignitaries or famous people.  Have you ever noticed the tilt of the head, what they are holding in their hands, what type of clothing they are wearing?  All of it is designed to convey an important fact.  The intention of the artist and individual is for you to know an answer to a “who” question.  That big consuming question for so many of us.

All of this got me to thinking:  our lives are canvases.  We began life with an image already imprinted before any paint was applied.  Upon birth, our parents started to add the paint with their brushes.  They took a beautiful plan and added to it.  Some of what they applied was solid and worth keeping.  Much of it needed to be wiped off – maybe, it needed to be scraped off.

As you matured, you also began to add to your image.  Eventually, at some point, you took the brush out of the master’s hand.  Formulating a plan in your head, you changed the image.  You might even have painted something beautiful – probably not.  After awhile, your portrait started to have problems.  You started to ask yourself  What can I do better?  Where are the problems?  How can I improve?

At this point in your life, you might be struggling with a disability or some other difficulty. They are wayward strokes.  Unlike other times when you could wipe down or scrape off unwanted “paint,” these strokes are permanent changes.  It could be that the problems have helped you to focus on what needs to be changed.  Maybe, you are finding that your troubles are developing your character.  As we examine our lives, we are afforded the opportunity to stand back and unearth the original vision. The discovery process, the hard work and frustration, is answering the “who” question.

It may not be a neurotypical life; it may not be what you or I envisioned for our lives.  Nevertheless, the portrait is not to be trashed.  Your character will shine through.  There is still a beautiful portrait sitting there – unfinished.