April 2018

Sunday, October 17, 2010

P.S. 9 They put her mouth on crooked.

Bailey's in fourth grade now, and one of the teachers at her school had a stroke last year. When her mom Diana asked how the teacher seems to be doing, Bailey said, "Fine, I think. But they put her mouth on crooked."

I often wonder how other people see me. I know other people see me as disabled because they move to the far side of the walkway for me or--on a good day--open the door. Mothers pull their young children out of my path. People sitting at a table pull their chairs under when they see me coming. I appreciate all of these actions, but they do make me wonder what others see when they see me.

When I first returned to working in high schools after my brain surgery, I worked at a school with a class of students with physical disabilities. I wore an eye-patch to help me manage the double-vision. One student named Jason always stopped when we passed, moved to stand directly in front of me, and looked, hard, at my face. Sometimes he felt my face, gently, with his hands. This made his teachers and the principal nervous. I figured in his more-than-a-decade of schooling, he may not have seen adults in the school dealing with disabilities that seemed similar to his. I felt he was seeking a connection he had not otherwise found.

I want to be a respectful person, but before my disabilities, I wasn't sure how to be respectful of persons with disabilities. Do I pretend I don't notice they're in a wheelchair and just nod my head hello, attempting to greet the person in passing like I would any other person? Maybe some people with disabilities prefer their disabilities be ignored, but it seems weird to me.

Kind of like, years ago, when I went with my second family the Whites to an IHOP for lunch between games during a soccer tournament. My right leg seized with a cramp, and I hollered and threw my leg out. The four Whites who were there helped massage the cramp out of my leg until I could bend it and sit up at the table. It was quite a scene, but no one in the restaurant looked up from their newspapers. I didn't want to draw attention, but the fact that no one seemed to notice my outburst was weird. It was like we were in different universes, and I was invisible to them.

That's how I feel now when people pretend they don't notice I have disabilities. How can a person not notice? I wear funny glasses, hold my head at an angle, and walk with a cane. If I"m with someone, I"m leaning on their arm. I'd rather you notice me with my dsabilities than feel invisible. After all, my disabilities are part of me now.


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