I’m feeling all feisty tonight. I’ve never considered myself too PC, but lately I’m surprising myself at just how much umbrage I’m taking at the word disabled. Didn’t expect to. Just happened. Other people have issues with various labels that get thrown around, like retard and coloured and dwarf and politician and what have you. Maybe it requires the personal experience to make it hit home. So to hell with disability. I’m redefining it. I’m telling you now, so if it crops up in conversation you’ll be able to spot it and not feel gauche or embarrassed on my behalf or anything useless like that.
Henceforth I’ll be pronouncing disability as diffability.
Go ahead and think it’s wanky if you want, but I’m a problem-solution guy. I have developed an intense dislike of the word, so I’m changing it. See? Problem and solution.
I anticipate some issues. Not problems for me, but there may be one or two raised eyebrows and perhaps even a faltering attempt at correction here or there. It could get very awkward. Folks’ll wonder when I developed my late lisp.* ‘Oh yes’ (I’ll say), ‘our youngest has a diffability. Absolutely everyone’s delirious with jealousy, but what can you do? We all have our cross to carry.’
His diffability manifests itself in a host of disserent ways. He only seems to be upset if he’s in genuine distress, the strange little man. He smiles way more than seems normal somehow. How can that be right? He makes people want to run to him and pick him up, as if he’s got a supercharged good vibe coming off him. Totally diffabled. And I think it’s rubbing off on the rest of us. Not that we’re smelling the roses more, because there doesn’t seem to be time for that. It’s just that we’re all going on about how we should stop and smell the roses now. I wonder are we becoming a diffunctional family. Cripes.
Don’t get too diffmayed. He’s started clapping in the last week. I get the feeling that he’s been sitting in his bouncer, watching a particularly satisfying circus act (that’ll be us) and wants to signal his approval of our efforts.
Now how in hell am I going to tell my hero Pat that she’s gonna hafta change her wondersite’s name?
* If you’ve got a lisp please don’t take a fence. We need it for the neighbours’ cattle.
So. Take an average 100 US citizens aged between 35 and 44. Ask them which would they choose: death or severe disability. 63% of them will say death, according to Forbes.
I have a healthy scepticism when it comes to research generally, but this poll makes for an interesting overview of our American cousins. It reveals that the better the education, the less tolerance for the thought of living with a disability. 57% of college-educated people would rather die, but only 30% of people who didn’t finish secondary school felt the same way. Who’s the smart one?
Could it be that life tastes sweeter when it’s tougher to maintain? Curiously, Southerners believe that life is worth hanging on to more than their West Coast counterparts do, even if it means – gasp! – living it at a disadvantage. I’m not local enough to draw any firm conclusions from that clichéd sounding nugget, so I’ll keep my counsel.
Of those 63% death wishers in the 35-44 age bracket, I ask myself how many are technically obese. There have to be some. I would consider obesity to be a disability. Either minor or major, but debilitating nonetheless. I can’t see them killing themselves to be rid of the debilitation. Well, maybe very slowly.
Ask a person a question and they’ll give you an answer most of the time. Might not be a terribly sound one, but they’ll open their mouth and an opinion will issue forth. ‘Oh God I’d rather DIE than live in a wheelchair!’ Oh really? Oh… really… ? Somehow I don’t think you’ve thought this through, Citizen. Life’s worth hanging on to, and never more so than when it’s dangling by the slimmest.
I am fortunate not to have a major disability. My wife will not vouch for that, but my frequent inability to process the simple information she relays through me does not qualify as a major handicap. (No dear, it does not.) But I stand close enough to one who has a comparative disadvantage. So close that my perspective has changed utterly. And the idea that life is less worth living for my ‘disabled’ son is so ridiculous now – on an emotional, rational, instinctual, practical or whatever-you’re-having-yourself level – that I find it difficult to contemplate even as a theoretical exercise. I am different now. That is all.
I would like to think that if I found myself suddenly blind, for instance, I would still want to maximise life as much as I do now. I cannot be sure, but I am sure that I wouldn’t want to kill myself in preference to at least exploring the options. Why would I? Because of the struggle? Struggle is everywhere. Yes, life in a wheelchair is struggle. And on kidney dialysis. Ataxia. Needing a new heart. Having Alzheimers. Anorexia. But life without any of these factors is struggle too. The older I get the more I see struggle, real struggle, etched on the faces of impoverished children. It still doesn’t make them want to leave the greatest show on earth.
Life is sweet. Even at its bitterest, life is sweet.