Taking Responsibility

“The life history of the individual is first and foremost an accommodation to the patterns and standards traditionally handed down in his community” – Ruth Benedict

It has been raining off and on for most of the day.  I knew it was coming so took advantage of the sun yesterday and went out to restock.  Pantry is now ready for at least a four day siege.  Glad I did, good exercise and I quite enjoyed the sunshine.  Now, gazing out my window, there’s a mist in the air creating a grey tone appearance to my surroundings.  It makes me wonder if this is how someone with cataracts views a changing world.  At the same time I feel like I’m experiencing a “mental cataract” when it comes to putting thoughts to paper.

As I said it is a dismal day outside so I am trying to avoid thinking dismal things, however that is a blockage for someone who likes to be expressive with words.  So I am gazing out the window, partly because of the new two story multi-unit development going on across the street (starting at 7am) and partly to see if I could land on a topic that piqued my creative juices.  Sitting here wanting to write but lacking an emotive topic and the phone rings.  Now this is cool because I didn’t know it could be done but my computer rings the minute my phone rang with a little phone icon in the upper right hand corner, so I answered with the computer.

It’s a buddy of mine from Alberta (we were neighbours 30 years ago and been tight ever since).  He was on his way to Camrose and had been listening to CBC Manitoba in his truck.  I know nothing says wake up like listening to CBC talk radio right.

March of Dimes Poster Child
From a Winnipeg newspaper, 5 years old and March of Dimes Timmy

We do share some of the same values and interest so he suggested I check out a CBC Manitoba report on the issues being faced by the polio/post-polio community.  I have a history with Manitoba and he is aware of that.  The subject is one I am personally very passionate about and have written often about.  The story hit very close to home based on current experience with a community health system (all well meaning) that is so out of touch with the reality of what’s happening in the community.  BC already has a seniors care crisis lets not complicate things by forgetting our history.  There are 15 to 20 thousand polio survivors hitting retirement and entering a system that can hardly manage the current crisis.  This should actually be an election issue here in BC!

Boy the rain is coming down but so is my mood.  As some of you are aware I am currently “playing the game” so I have a “care worker” come by every morning, usually around 10 to meet the stated needs the current health policy dictates.  Usually by the time they get here I’ll be working away on my computer.  I always leave a few dishes in the sink so they have something to do but inevitably the conversation comes around to my wheelchair.  That way we have both met the needs of community health. Continue reading “Taking Responsibility”

Let It Come

“Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them” – George Eliot

The passing of Kenny Baker caught my attention this weekend and created a tsunami of thought.  Although I remember many of Kenny’s movies I also remember him as a voice that spoke for disability rights and acceptance.  He may have made the character of R2D2 an icon however his voice as an activist was shattering barriers rather than star troopers.  He was an important voice in a sea of marginalized people in a generation where the Vietnam protests overshadowed almost every social issue facing the world.  People like Kenny paved the road for inclusion.

Kenny lived 81 years with hypopituitarism, the cause of his dwarfism.  Forty years ago the idea of making it past 50 with this disorder was a challenge let alone 81 years.  Today, thanks to the efforts of the likes of Kenny, people with disabilities are far out-living prior expectations.  Death takes us all, you will be missed but your spirit and your contribution will live on through many of us.

Death is becoming much more prevalent in my life these days.  Getting old has some of its own realizations and receiving more funerals invites than wedding invitations these days speaks to the demographics of my social circle.

A very close friend of mine lost his younger brother to cancer about a week ago.  I’ve known Ken over 30 years but I didn’t really know his brother.  I knew his brother was very ill and the family was making the best of the time left but I didn’t realize he had passed away until I found out quite accidentally (and embarrassingly).  His brother was only 63 leaving his beloved wife and two adult children behind.

Ken and I keep regular contact however he’s in Calgary and I’m on the Island so we are not necessarily current on the day to day aspects of each others life.  I happened to send him an e-mail containing a short joke about a fellow whose buddy had passed away and was speaking to him from the beyond.  Ken, with his usual grace, got back to me commenting on the timeliness of the joke as he was busy composing the eulogy for his brothers service.  Boy did I feel like a schmuck but I know Ken well enough to understand his comment was very genuine.

How someone deals with death varies greatly however the underlying theme is well entrenched in the death and dying process described by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross so I won’t bemoan it.  I sat with enough grieving families and individuals in my years as a hospital emergency social worker to know everyone grieves differently.  My job was to listen and provided comfort as needed. Continue reading “Let It Come”

Living with Dignity

One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.” ― Michael J. Fox

This week the Canadian Parliament will be dealing with Bill C-14, an amendment of the Criminal Code focused on medical assistance in dying.  The topic of “death with dignity” has been raging in this country for the past 25 years and hopefully this brings it to its apex.  One can only hope it finally gets settled but hell I thought the whole separation of Quebec was behind us, silly me.

Up to this point I have stayed pretty quiet on the whole Bill C-14 issue because it is to personal to me.  I am not capable of any objectivity on this issue so for me to debate it is just putting more money into some prescription blood pressure medication.  I stay out of the public debate because I know I will be unable to compromise on this one.  There are already too many people arguing this from an ideological rather than objective perspective so there is no sense in me throwing kerosene onto this fire.

What I do want to know is why I should trust their decision.  Until they can show me they understand “living with dignity” they will never convince me I should listen to any decision regarding death with dignity.   First demonstrate you know how to live with dignity.  Show me you understand the importance of self-worth.  In BC if you are on disability benefits that means your self-worth is $977/month.  Good luck with dignity there.

Growing up in the hospital I learnt early to be my own counsel.  If you didn’t then you were constantly dependent on someone else and never learnt to be independent.  Those years in the hospital were formidable developmental years and laid the foundations for what would later become my belief system.  If you didn’t get the right message regarding independence early in the hospital your chance at an independent life just disappears.  I knew kids who aged out of the Children’s and went straight to extended care centres.  Not a huge boast to the old dignity when your 18 and sitting in the sunroom with a bunch of 80 year olds (no disrespect meant to todays seniors).  My sense of independence became my religion and nothing was going to get in the way of it, almost to a fault.  When I aged out the hospital I hit the road and never looked back.

I’m not referring to the hospitals of today, pyramids of technology, research, learning and the occasional good new story for the hospital foundations annual fund raiser.  Hospitals with bright, vibrant colour schemes to mask the blackness felt by so many families.  These are realities of a hospital but the side we pretend isn’t there to allow for some dignity to the family and child. Continue reading “Living with Dignity”

The Conflicts of Life

Screen Shot 2016-02-13 at 1.42.58 PMAnother day of rain which is just fine.  The rain and temperature beats the crap out of the snow and the -30 (or worse) Celsius temperatures hammering the east.

It has been raining so hard here today that the rain is bouncing back up a good four or five feet.  I know it is that high since it is bouncing back onto my face.  Sitting in my wheelchair puts my head exactly four feet off the ground and my low grade OCD encouraged me to use the tape measure to check the height.  Rain provides it’s own conflicting challenges but I have never been one to let a good challenge get in my way.

I say conflicting because I enjoy the rain, not monsoon like rain but rain in general.  There is something very refreshing and meditative for me in a good rain fall.  The down side, needless to say, is getting very wet.  Even using my car can get me soaked.  Transferring from a wheelchair into my car then packing up my chair is not a “quick as a bunny” event.  It takes a couple of minutes and if it is raining hard, as is the case right now, you can be pretty wet even before you start your day.  But hey life goes on and you do what you have to.  Isn’t that the truth of life in general?  There may be conflicts but you don’t ever stop.

Rain or shine I always wear gloves.  Gloves to me are like shoes to most people.  I can’t step over those puddles so I want something on my hands.  Plus, it has been my experience that not everybody picks up after their dogs so you never know if you will wind up wheeling through something you shouldn’t.  I do keep a close eye on the walkway but you can’t spend your life staring at the ground.  You can miss the majesty of the world around you by looking down all the time.

I find the Giro Sports Design fingerless cycling gloves fit my needs best.  They are more affordable than many (not the cheapest but the cheapest wear out in a month) and they have the closest fit to what their actual size states.  I have large hands.  The fingerless makes it easier for fine motor activities while not being an impediment that keeps me from getting my hand firmly around the push rim of my wheel.  I don’t wear them for warmth, I wear them for a cleanliness and grip.  Your rims can get a little slippery when your hands are wet so gloves contribute to brake control.  Unfortunately they are not water proof and no matter how you approach it they still get soaked.  When gloves get wet they are harder to get off when wet but by having them sized properly they are easier to get off. Continue reading “The Conflicts of Life”

Valentines – With Love Comes Sorrow

Valentines weekend is upon us.  The time to celebrate love and express the depths of our commitment to that special someone in our life.  There are too many historical variances regarding this celebration to even consider a lesson on the background so I will forego any teaching.  BUT I will also give you a heads up that some of this article may be disturbing to some.  This is not a “feel good” story but it is a realistic perspective of what some deal with during Valentines.  Suffice it to say in todays society Valentines is a celebration of shared love.  How that love is shared is open to interpretation.

I have to stress the “shared” since it is an experience to be shared between two people.  When I was a kid in school (elementary) we were encouraged at a very young age to give Valentine cards to almost everyone.  It  became a popularity contest designed to sell books of small Valentine cards.  That’s called commercialism and has little to do with the expression of something very special.  It had little to do with that connection with your perfect mate or so you hoped.

That “perfect mate” can be someone new to your life or someone who has been in your life for a very long time.  Often it will involve a loved one who has been in your life for longer than some of us have been around and that is where the tragedy can be.  If you have lost your partner of fifty years, and yes many people remain married for fifty or more years, Valentines can be one of the most emotional holidays of the year.  Most holidays are family based celebrations but Valentines is something very personal between two individuals.

Life time love
Loss of love can mean more than loss of one life!

That brings us to the downside of Valentines, the remembrance of loved ones lost.  Studies have shown that many seniors who have enjoyed a life time with a person they loved unconditionally often pass away within a year of the lost partner.

Valentines is a period of time that holds the highest risk for suicide among widowers or widows.  Statistics shows it is the widower (male) with the highest suicide rate, which should surprise no one.  We live in a culture where men are expected to keep their emotions in check.  Valentines is all about love however it can be a very difficult time for those who have lost their reason for this special day. Continue reading “Valentines – With Love Comes Sorrow”