A Day of Reflection

Different sense illicit different memories, moods and reflections. We are a collective of our senses and most don’t realize that, simplicity is the preference – Terry Wiens (2022)

Concert in the park, Sunday was Palladio Music courtesy of the 17th Ave BIA

The first Monday in August is a long weekend for many provinces. It is not a “statutory” holiday like Christmas, Easter or even Thanksgiving but a “civic” holiday. In Alberta it is known as “Heritage Day”, in British Columbia it is “British Columbia Day”, in Manitoba it is called “Terry Fox Day”, etc etc. The point I am trying to make is that nothing is ever straight forward and simple. It is not the optics that count but the substance. Most people prefer the optics since it is much simpler than having to think about the “substance”. So today is a holiday in about 80% of the country with government offices and banks closed. With that said, Quebec and the Yukon don’t have this Civic holiday so their government offices and banks are open while Nova Scotia employers have the “option” to declare Natal Day as a paid holiday if they choose. This is the complexity of Canada and a part most people are not even aware of. It does have financial and tax implications but I’ll leave that to the Trevor Tombe’s of the world.

I am using this as an example of the complexities of living with a disability. Most of my formative years were spend in the Junior Red Cross Hospital for Crippled Children. This was long before universal healthcare in Canada so as a 1953 polio survivor, it was one of the few places where my parents could get the treatment for me that would have otherwise been unaffordable. So they migrated from Winnipeg to Calgary and the rest is history. With that said, those “formative” years laid the foundation for the belief system that continues to direct my life. I have tried to maintain that belief system throughout my life however I have had to adjust my outlook and behaviour as I progressed through life without feeling like I have compromised my beliefs.

Yesterday, in the midst of this wicked heat wave, I ventured over to Tomkins Park to catch the Sunday afternoon concert. Every Sunday at 12:30 is, what I refer to as the classical performances, and yesterday we were blessed with a two hour performance by Palladio Music (see above in short video). I had two friends come down from my old neighbourhood, Hawkwood, who took in the performance with me. It was well received.

Following the performance we took a saunter down 17th Ave, Ken and Sue strolling, me in my wheelchair dodging cracked sidewalks and pavement potholes. It’s the simple things but they add up quickly. As I have been discovering over the last ten years, aging plays a big role in a disabled persons life. Access and adventures that I would never have missed out on when I was, say, 35 are now passed my capabilities at 70. Things as simple as the cobblestone pathway in Tomkins Park are like an electric current that runs along my highway of nerves with each tire bump. Curb-cuts, where road repairs have been done leaving a small “ski jump” between the height of the asphalt and the lip of the curb. For some reason the concept of “topography” is lost on the City of Calgary but you do learn to adjust.

While on the stroll we decided to stop for a cold beer and Whiskey Rose was right there. None of us had been there before so it was a nice change of pace until I wheeled through the door staring at a flight of five steps. We did have the option of taking one of the bar tables by the patio but again I would have been like that “Elf on the Shelf”, eye level with the table. Then I looked down the aisle and I noticed a stair glide at the far end against the other set of stairs. Nice but then, none of the staff (who were great by the way) knew how to operate it. It was quiet in there, 3pm not a lot of people hanging out in the bar yet and a very pleasant, respectful young man came down. He was the bartender and was determined to be as accommodating as possible. They quickly rearranged a few tables and placed a regular (height wise) table in an accessible area. I must say I was impressed with the length and pleasantness this young fellow went (found out he was 19 on a year off from University) through to accommodate us. He even comped the first round of beers (the only round we had actually) but we did add some ribs and chicken wings to gnaw on as we talked.

I have known Ken and Sue for well over forty years (we were neighbours when Hawkwood was being developed) so we always have lots to discuss. That is often surprising because we are quite opposite in many ways. Ken, having grown up in a smaller Ontario town (a way of life where community matters), and me having grown up completely different where my activities were always directed by healthcare. Ken is a “fixer”, there’s an issue give him the tools and he’ll fix it. Me, I’m more about regulators accepting the responsibility and being accountable for those things regulated, like street pathways. I try to be accountable for my actions (as a teenager it wasn’t always easy but I made it well passed my expected “best before date”) but I also expect others to be accountable.

My independence and dignity are both very important (that is a very weak way of putting it) to me, almost to the point now of being a curse. Ken, Sue and myself talked a bit about that over our cold beer. We discussed my recent discussion with my doctor regarding death with dignity. I really have nothing left on my bucket list and as this post-polio crap continues to progress my list of options continues to shrink.

My 95 year old mother is in an extended care centre in Kelowna and the last time I was able to “sort of” talk with her was a Facetime call with a local cousin out there aiming the phone at her but having to repeat everything I said due to some hearing issues. Living in adult diapers and thin as a rake didn’t exactly scream, or even whisper, dignity. I spend almost the first 15 years of my life in a healthcare environment and I refuse to spend whatever time I have left in that kind of situation. That was part of our “cold beer” conversation but with the current lack of services for seniors, a system that is no where near ready to meet the needs of this tsunami of disabled reaching (or reached) retirement age, you find dignity where you can.

So today is Monday August 1 and, after this apartment, there are not a lot of options. Enjoy the weekend, I’ll be back.

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