Thursday, March 15, 2007

Invisible People

March 10, 2007 - Spring is trying to come to Indiana. Right now, at 5:30 PM it is 53 degrees with a light wind. Earlier, while breezy, the sun was shining and it was rather pleasant outside. Phillip is here today and earlier, Amy, the boys and I had a "picnic" lunch out on the back patio. Nothing fancy, but we breathed some fresh air and saw a little sun. After we finished our PB&J's, the soccer ball came out and (with significant grumbling from Phillip) we "kicked" it around. I was pretty proud of myself...actually got up and walked around in the yard a little and even kicked the ball once or twice...then I got ambitious and Christopher and I went around to the front of the house...the flower bed in front was full of dead foliage from last fall, and I began to pull up some of the easier-to-pursuade detritus. It wasn't long though, before I was feeling like I just couldn't keep standing up without leaning on something. At first I tried the rake that I had grabbed to help clear the flower bed of the 'junk', but I immediately realized that rakes aren't much help when you want to "lean".
On Thursday (the 8th) I went to see my friends Judy and Tim at Riley for my wheelchair fitting. As always it was a pleasure to see them (Judy is an OT who specializes in wheelchair fitting and Tim, well, he's the "tool man" ... or as I like to call him.. the MIRACLE worker when it comes to wheelchair adjustments and modifications!). Anyhow, while I was there Tim gifted me with a walker that had been "longing for a home" for quite some time. TODAY, I gave the walker it's first "test"...there in the front yard, I was leaning on the walker and trying to "particpate" in the yard work. Now, suffice it to say that it isn't easy to get much done with Phillip and Christopher "helping" on a GOOD day...and I quickly realized that I had bitten off more than I could chew. Amy was great to jump in and "pursuade" Phillip to help with gathering the dead foliage. Christopher was content (for about 3 mintues) to just walk with me (and my walker) down the sidewalk. Eventually, even this was too tiring for me (we made it past the distant property-line of the house next door!) and I "sat" while Christopher chopped on and dug at the only remaining pile of "snow" (more like dirty ice pellets) obscuring the sidewalk. While we were enjoying our outdoor activities, several of our neighbors were coming and going.
Mind you, we live in a nice, suburban neighborhood, full of young families with the 1.3 children and the 2.4 cars they're supposed to have. Last evening (yesterday was warmer than today) there were probably 15 children (ages 1-10) and 8 adults in the street, gathered together just enjoying being outside for the first time in months. By that time of day (6 PM) though, our day is "over"....Christopher is in near-to-full meltdown mode from fatigue (and so are we!) so all I could do was watch the social gathering from my window with envy.
Today, as the neighbors passed by our home...with my "family" all outside, all I saw was averted gazes. We were "invisible" this "friendly" neighborhood where everyone waves at everyone else when they drive by...there were no waves, no greetings, not even any curious stares. I'm not sure why we were "invisible" today, although I have my suspicions. And, yes, it was obviously an intentional act on our neighbors' part to ignore us.
My suspicion is that we were "invisible" because we are "different". Maybe they think Amy and I (two adult women living in the same house) are gay (although I doubt they think that about the two young-adult men who rent the house next to us on the south)...maybe it was "all those disabilities" (two obviously mentally "challenged" boys and a woman who "looks fine" but talks like a drunk and uses a walker).
Regardless of the "why" I can tell you that it bugged me. Next time you see someone "different" I hope that YOU just take a second to share a quick but sincere smile. It is amazing what that simple act means. Love, Claudia

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