My father was a very abusive alcoholic and even at the age of 3 my memories of my father are all bad. The lady that babysat me at times, had a son about 6 years older than me, one of the kindest and smartest kids I knew, but no one could see passed the fact that he was deaf. That young man was forever being berated or ostracized by others. I recall breaking a glass bottle that my father had managed to get a ship inside, and that young man stepped up saying he had done it, thus he got the beating, not me.
I hated how people treated him, and this contributed to my not seeing the exterior of a person or their disabilities as anything other than being equal to the colour of your eyes, or hair.
I had a couple of friends when I was a teen, we were all stuck in different ways in our own realities, and foolish me, I did not see anything wrong with either of them. I considered them my equals, in some ways maybe even superior. I liked them both, these brothers, who were so full of life, yet trapped in wheelchairs as muscular dystrophy slowly stole what the rest of us take for granted.
They could tell me things that they could not share with their parents, or other friends who did not have demons. They could talk to me about the sadness, despair and hopelessness that sometimes overwhelmed them both.
Instead of accepting things, I insisted they see themselves as good as anyone else…that all the things others had said to them at school…the guilt of their parents…the fears…all of that was secondary to their living their lives and not giving up. When I looked at them I saw people, not chairs, dreams not regrets and possibilities not obstacles.
Their mother once told my mother that because of me, they both changed their views on things. Personally I think it is easier to encourage and help others than it is to do it for ourselves, but it was not me that caused the change, they did it all themselves. All they needed was someone else to show them that what they perceived as a universal view or expectation of them, was nowhere near being either. They had the right and the ability to make their own lives how they wanted them, or as close as possible. They both eventually left home, moving even further than the 30 miles from me, to the big city some 60 miles away.
It was by no means rosy, as it frustrated me watching what they had to live with.
It is a sad comment on some people that they view those who are vulnerable, need help or not self sufficient as prey or usable for their own ends.
I saw them both get hurt by strangers, friends and in romances with women.
I saw supposed friends arrive at their homes after midnight, drunk with women in tow and take over the place as if they owned it, making it their crash pad, party place or just use the couch as a make out spot. I remember the conversations where they were afraid if they said this was unacceptable that they would lose a friend (they did not have many) or transportation to get somewhere. It took a long time for them to say stop, enough…this is my home.
They were both normal males, and there were women they both mentioned, had crushes on, wanted to get close to and/or marry. On more than one occasion women they knew borrowed money (they did not pay back), used them for money (not that they had much), gifts, or to pay for the party. However, for some reason they did not seem to realize that these guys were like everyone else, or they did not see passed the chairs. I lost count of the number of times they borrowed my shoulder because of some insensitive or greedy female.
I saw others inflict their rules, regulations, limitations and lack of fair pay for work on them both.
Being in a wheel chair should not have allowed anyone to treat them different than any of the rest of us are treated but it did. They had to be in bed by a certain time is just one example – being paid next to nothing for work because people could not see them for the chair and give them proper jobs, instead they worked doing piece work.
The things I never realized that went on for people just because they were in a wheel chair.
They were people, in the dumb things happen to naive people most competition, they both gave me a run for lead spot. I admit I never got locked in a washroom stall and needed help getting out, nor have I ever had my battery die while crossing the main street in -35C weather. I don’t drink so, I never had to worry about operating a wheel chair while under the influence. They got along well with the Police, who did have to help them out of silly scrapes a few times, washroom stalls whose doors stick, batteries that die and being found unconscious on the street and being rushed to hospital.
Though I gotta say, going for a jaunt through the mall with them, meant you needed running shoes on.
They were smart, fun, caring, intelligent and braver than even I will ever really understand.
Yet despite all of that never again, after we met, did I ever see or hear of them giving up as they had been.
No more talk of suicide.
I am certain that the dreams, hopes, desires and fears that we all shared with each other, are probably very simple compared to others…but that is why they are precious and individual.
We all form ours within, throughout our lives, and if we are really lucky, maybe some will come to be.
Both of those brothers have since passed away, one quite recently, which inspired this post.
For all the desperate living they packed into the time they had, the majority of the things they yearned for the most, never came to be.
But I can safely say neither of them gave up trying.
If you were lucky enough to have them as friends, you got a different view on the world, and some very brave people that live in it.
They are missed.
I hope that others going through the same things, have the support of friends, and get the chance to live not just exist at someone else’s allowance.
People with disabilities, are people first.
Brave ones at that.
Songs my friends enjoyed:
Raise a little hell by Trooper
Burn It To The Ground by Nickleback