I never heard the word “disability” until I went to college. My parents said I had “a walking problem” and told me to “keep walking”. They sent me to tumbling class to learn to fall without hurting myself, and found an orthopedic doctor who had a physical therapist on staff who also taught yoga.
In college, I became a part of the Psychology Department because SLU had no degree in special education and I wanted to work with “handicapped kids”. I learned to use the phrase “developmentally disabled” and spent a semester working with a group of pre-school aged children who had significant mental and physical challenges. My heart splintered and so ended my career as a special ed teacher; I felt so helpless in the face of what those kids endured.
Several of my relatives (a sister, a close cousin) have had children with Down’s Syndrome. Over the years, social mores applied numerous rotating labels to describe all of us. I went an entire year using the ridiculous appellation “handi-capable”. How absurd! I’d rather be called “gimp”, though not by someone with cruelty dripping from their mouth.
So what does this have to do with being grateful? I’m getting to that.
Today, I would like to express gratitude for Jenny Rosen, a special education teacher; and her student, Josh. Josh and Jenny have been walking my dog every day for several months, and the difference that their attentions have made shows itself in quite marked ways. Because of Josh’s attention and diligence, my dog has lost weight, gained energy, and, most importantly, we’ve been able to cut both of her seizure medications in half with no break-through episodes. Little Girl has gotten so lively that she’s downright annoying! Rather than a 15-year-old, you’d mistake her for a five-year-old barely out of puppy stage.
And I’d like also,to acknowledge the deliberateness with which my mother insisted on treating me as though I was normal (whatever that means) so that I would as nearly as possible accept the “abnormalities” of others as part of their charm and beauty. My mother taught me many lessons in the thirty years that I had her in my life. I haven’t always done those lessons justice. Josh and his mother came to our Holiday Open House this past Friday, and Josh told me that he “came to Corinne’s party”. In that moment, my mother’s love for even the least creature rushed through me. I could not have felt more blessed.