Monday, September 30, 2013
A Momentous September
I returned home in April of 2006, after living with my parents for several months, during which time close several close friends and family members were volunteering their skills, resources, and time to make my home accessible. We didn't fully understand the support that we could have gotten through Voc Rehab, (I say "we" because my family acquired my disability right along with me. It first dominated their lives while my survival was in question, and then, as I recovered and we learned to adapt, it forever altered their lives and our family dynamic, just as it altered my existence. The initial event turned my father's hair grey over night...but I digress). My family and friends built a ramp in my garage, removed most of the carpet, put in a pergo floor, and modified my master bath in a way that could only increase the value of the home.
What we didn't understand, and I didn't do, was ask either the state Voc Rehab agency or the voc rehab services available through my employers group insurance policy to assist with an assessment and modification of my home so that I could be more productive and get to work without exhausting myself first. My kitchen, laundry equipment, and second bathroom (the only one with a tub...I only have a shower in the master bath) were left untouched. Now, through the benefit of a grant, my second bathroom has finally been modified. The Contractor worked quickly and after a week I had a fully accessible bathroom and new laundry equipment that make it much easier, and physically safer, for me to do laundry! (What you see below is the original entry, which was too narrow for a wheelchair because of both the door frame and the door).
It's significant to me that after eight years I have finally regained access to every room in my home. The only way that I could get into that bathroom before was by getting out of the wheelchair and crawling on the floor. With this new access a certain measure of personal independence, and a small bit of pride, that I had not realized was missing has been restored. Why? Because for the most part, I am now fully able to maintain my home, in regards to cleanliness and general maintenance and upkeep. Oh, sure, there may be the occasional thing that I simply need help with, like cutting the grass, but I can take pride in the condition of the bath room that's off of the living room because I can maintain it, and all of the other areas of the house now.
The kitchen needs some help, it could be far more efficient, but I'm able to function in it. I'd love to have access to my attic, and I need to make a modification to the deck so that I can have easier access to my yard. Gaining access to that bathroom has motivated me to get back into house projects, finishing touches in the bathroom (like the robe hook and vent cover in the pic above), touch up paint around the house, fixing a bent screen that had once been pulled off of a window in what I assume was a failed attempt at a break in. (That screen had been off the window, sitting in my garage, for at least 9 years...possibly ten...and all it took was one whack with a rubber mallet to straighten out).
I even went out through the garage and around the house in my wheelchair, opened the gate to the back yard, and then spent an afternoon tying back the longest vines of my rose bush and guiding them in the direction that I want them to grow...;ever since my amputations I have felt slightly disconnected from nature...I cannot commune with it the way I once did but it felt wonderful to tend to this part of my yard and have a hand in shaping its development. These physical things may sound trivial, and you may have noticed that some of these things, the screen...the rose bush...touch up paint...etc, were things that I could have done on my own before the bathroom was made accessible. Part of the challenge when you have a disability is psychological in nature. The bathroom that has finally been modified is at the very center of my home and for eight years it has been a growing eye sore and embarrassment. I was not aware of the impact that had on me until now. I find it fascinating how my environment affects my mood.
Speaking of moods, the month of September has ended with a rare and uplifting treat. My uncle Micheal guest conducted the IU Orchestra yesterday afternoon. They performed Brahms first symphony and two movements from Tristan and Isolde. The orchestra played beautifully, and it was a wonder to watch the way my Uncle works with and directs the students. My cousin David, whom we had not seen for almost six years, as well as our dear family friend Mike Yip, who now lives out of the country and we had not seen for over a year, also came to visit for several days and to attend the concert. We have so much fun together; the family laughed almost constantly. Though I would rather have been at my alma-mater, Purdue, I spent yesterday at IU with family and close friends, listening to beautiful and emotional live classical music, and cannot think of a better way to wrap up the month!
Sunday, September 01, 2013
I wanted to attend our ten year. I'd been back in Indy for a couple of years, but I didn't get an invite until three days before the event and couldn't get out of work. This time around the organizers were much more on the ball and, thanks largely to Facebook, I knew about it well in advance. I had a small gathering at my house before the game with a two close friends from my class who would be staying with me over the weekend, and another wayward friend whom I had know since kindergarten, but hadn't seen, or even spoken to, in the twenty years since we moved our tassels from one side to the other and tossed our caps high in the air. As he walked in the door of my house childhood memories flooded in technicolor vibrance on fast forward through my mind. It was as if a missing part of my past had been downloaded back into my brain...from where, I do not know, but I'm happy to have it back.
That should have prepared me for what was to come. Those moments would happen over and over again, throughout the next 48 hours, as faces from the past became people in my present once more. My twenty year reunion was far more than just a gathering with people I had spent four years of my adolescence with. These were people I had known since childhood. The kids that I played with in my backyard when the Thunder Cats was our favorite cartoon and we argued over who would get to be Lion-O and wield the stick that we were using as the "Sword of Omens". These were the girls I had my first crushes on but was too afraid to tell. These were the people I had gotten into fights with, the people who had excluded me from their groups, and the people that I had excluded from mine. These were also the people whom I never noticed, and who never noticed me. The most amazing thing to me of all...without exception we greeted each other with broad smile and warm embrace. What made the difference, you might ask? Simple, from my perspective, the teenage angst was gone and, for many, we were able to be ourselves with one another for the first time since those early childhood years.
It was difficult for me to keep my emotions in check, especially when reconnecting with the people I had known the longest. When one of the kids that grew up around the corner from me, whom I don't even remember having a relationship with in high school even though we were still living in the same houses we grew up in and neither of our parents have moved to this day, introduced himself to me and then pulled me into a bear hug the moment I said my name, I fought to hold back tears. With each old connection that was reforged I found myself thinking...I almost didn't make it. So glad I did! Thanks to all involved for a wonderful reunion!