Mar 22, 2007

Disability Blog Carnival on April 12th

I am hosting the April 12th edition of the disability blog carnival.

The topic is "Disability and Culture".

Mar 1, 2007

Dealing with Family, Old and New

Access means getting to a place where everybody else gets to, so you don't have to make special calls to warn them of your arrival.
-Itzhak Perlman

This past sunday, I had two family events to attend. The first was a brunch at a fancy restaurant to meet Balk's godparents. The second was a birthday party at my uncle's. I wasn't sure how long the first one was going to take, and told my uncle I probably wouldn't be able to attend the party.

Balk's family has had a tough time adjusting to the concept that they are acquiring a disabled daughter-in-law. They didn't have any visible physical disability in their family prior to my arrival, and I often get the feeling they would prefer it had stayed that way. Nonetheless, they called the restaurant before settling on it and interrogated them about their accessibility, not only in their entrances but also in their buffet. As it happens, the people at the place told them things that were less than true, but I really appreciated the gesture of thoughfulness.

I was genuinely sad I wouldn't be able to make it to my uncle's, because his house is the only one besides my own and I can get into and out of myself and actually socialize. Thankfully, Balk's thing ended just in time to head over, so we went unannounced. I braced myself for the usual drama and problems that generally are heralds of my arrival at a family member's doorstep.

Instead, something really wonderful happened. We got there, and it was just like any other couple in the family had arrived, with one major difference. Once I pulled myself up into the house and headed into the livingroom, I found my uncle folding up chairs and making me room to get around in. This might sound mundane, but this is the first time such a thing has EVER happened. He didn't even say anything about it, just treated me like a guest who wasn't some kind of crazy special burden, just treated me like family.

I don't think there is any way to convey properly to my uncle what his actions meant to me, or to Balk's mother. For the first time this weekend, I experienced access to family in Perlman's sense. I experienced consideration without forewarning and haggling, without prior arrangements between me and a family member. I just went to social things and the details were personally seen to without a fuss and without me having to be involved. I was treated like it was normal I was coming, normal that I was there. It was a good feeling, a feeling that can lead to healing and better interactions between me and my families, old and new.