“Culture-shaping poets tackle a formidable battery of themes and styles” review in the ‘Canadian Mennonite’ April 5, 2017
—Reviewed by Beth Downey Sawatzky
Re: Dis/Ability Issue
This issue held particular interest for me as I have been recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. It has been an interesting journey, not only how I am coping with the life-altering news, but how those around now relate to me in a completely different manner than only six months ago. I was reluctant to share the report for a couple of reasons.
The common default opening line—“How are you”?
“I got Parkinson’s Disease.”
Conversation shudders to a screeching halt. I wait for the standard expression.
“Gee, I am sorry to hear that”. Long pause. If I am feeling particularly snarky, I wait and stare into their blinking eyes. If I am in a good mood, I reply…
“Oh, could be worse. It’s not cancer or MS or ALS or Alzheimer’s, or living in Amerika and having Trump as Prez. Besides I have a great wife– retired nurse—no debts, house and land paid for, employed sons, otherwise I’m quite healthy, supportive church and faith. Glass is definitely half full.”
But no matter what I say, from that moment onward, their greeting is always overshadowed by the diagnosis and there is an underlying patina of sorrow. Which I neither share nor appreciate.
The second initial line, especially with new acquaintances is “What do you do?” This seems to be particularly true in menfolk–your worth measured or expressed in output and if I am felled by PD, what does that leave me? Useless as teats on the proverbial boar.
I am more than a hapless victim, I am still the curmudgeon I was before. In spite of everything I can still apply a dozen adjectives to myself and none of them include “disabled”. Though I shuffle and stumble, I am yet me. I am more than a disease.