Monday, August 23, 2010

The Invisible Usefulness of Being

A writing group I participate in studies a creative nonfiction essay each week. We exchange thoughts about what does and doesn't work in accomplishing the goals of creative nonfiction, the goals being much like paraphrasing Potter Stewart's description of obscenity.

I know creative nonfiction when I see it.

The last two essays we've studied have been truly me-focused. And I didn't see much in the way of the authors attempting to use individual experience to create universal lessons, which to me is the only reason to write a confessional, me-focused essay.

Which brings me to disability. I'm tried of writing about disability as it pertains to me. Perhaps I purged myself of all the anger and regret and frustration and Look at brave me left in my psyche after I wrote and published my memoir.

But if you ride around on your fanny, you cannot help but roll into some really great material.

Scene 1
We are in a photography studio for some family pictures. My wife has made the appointment, and so I'm not surprised when the photographer addresses her as we move into the background area. His first words to me are directed to my wife.

"Let's put his chair here in the center at angle, and then we'll gather the rest of you around him."

I move my chair to the center of the scene, and he moves behind his equipment and returns with a black cloth, which he attempts to drape around my power chair. "What are you doing?" I ask.

"Don't you want the chair covered?" he asks my wife.

"Why?" I say.

My wife looks at him without answering, no doubt biting her lip in anticipation of the next clumsy remark and my rancid response. But it is her day, and I decide I won't take the photographer to school.

The photographer says nothing further, but he still does not look at me. Instead he moves away and goes on with arranging the other nine people in the family around my chair.
Scene 2
We're on our way home and turn into a Cracker Barrel restaurant because my wife has fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and white gravy on her mind. As we wait to be seated, I somehow find myself near the entrance to the restrooms, and I'm momentarily stranded because my granddaughter has flicked the control button for the wheelchair to the "off" position. An elderly man, perhaps well into his eighties, tall but stooped shoulder, thick black gray crew-cut, and pants elevated above belly-button exits the restroom and finds me blocking his way.

"Wait a sec," I say. "I'll get out of your way."

"That's fine. That's fine. I'll squeeze by," he replies.

He does. And moves four or five steps down the aisle, only to reverse his course and step back close to me, saying, "It's always good to get out, isn't it? We can always see someone worse off than we are and feel better about ourselves."

With that, he pats me on the shoulder and moves on to his dinner.

There are essays in both those incidents, but I suppose I'm bored by their repetition and have nothing new to say about this particular coin in the disability exchange. It has two sides, as you'll note: people with disabilities are too often either invisible or they are seen as one of those Maybe things are really so bad for me examples Fate sends stumbling into the path of those souls who need a bit of cheer.


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