Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Handicapped, Disabled or Differently-abled?

Traveling in the Wheelchair of Life—Part 4

In this day and age of politically correct language, I’m thoroughly confused on when to use certain terms, lest I cause offense. When is it proper to refer to someone, such as myself, as handicapped, disabled or differently-abled?

When it comes to sports, I’m definitely handicapped — a congenital defect encoded in my genes. My instinctive reflex to dodge or duck when a ball flies my way, desperately weak ankles and poor eye-hand coordination make me likely to be last picked in all but the most domestic activities. Challenge me to a bed-making race, and I’ll win blue ribbons for speed and neatness. Challenge me to cleaning a bathroom and ... well, you’ll win that one.

I am currently disabled due to knee surgery and a lengthy healing process requiring that I not put weight on my left leg. I get by with the use of a wheelchair, walker, and hopping-about on my right leg. The latter requires modest athletic ability, which as I pointed out earlier, I am lacking. Your prayers for my safety are coveted.

And I am differently-abled in ways too numerous to list. While you may be able to slam a baseball over the fence, I am able to slam computer keys and produce words and thoughts that are equally a hit in my field of play. I am able to listen by the hour (which comes in handy on my job as a therapist) while you may be a non-stop gabber. Don’t ask me to do any form of math and I’ll not ask you to define or spell esclandre, prosopopoeia or guerdon. (Cheer up; I don’t even know what they mean — I’m just messing with you.) We’re just differently-abled, you and I.

Recently I decided to negotiate the grocery store in one of those nifty motorized carts that are now provided for the handicapped, disabled, and/or differently-abled individual. You may not have ever noticed, but a grocery store is an obstacle course in disguise. All those produce, baked goods and soda pop displays, set at angles to keep the physically-abled from racing through the store, are a nightmare for those of us on wheels.

The scariest part for me, however, was backing my buggy up when I failed to stop in time to collect the particular cookies or laundry detergent I was after. Putting my vehicle into reverse set off an obnoxious alarm, not unlike that installed on road construction equipment. I’m not noted for my vehicular backing ability, so I recommend you clear the aisle, street or driveway if you see and hear me operating any mode of transportation in reverse.

The most difficult aspect of grocery shopping, however, was getting into the freezer cases for my weekly supply of Lean Cuisine and Skinny Cow Ice Cream Bars. The freezer doors at my store open outward rather than sliding aside. If you want to feel differently-abled, I invite you to attempt to line up a mobile cart, just so, open the door and lean in for your item.

I do wish to thank all the kind people who helped me retrieve the Wheat Chex and other items stowed on the top shelves. My thanks, also, to those who did not laugh at me and those who pretended to nonchalantly get out of my way (I know you were scared to death and wanted to run for your life!) There are a lot of kind-hearted, gracious and tolerant people eager to be of assistance.

But I am truly baffled by those who were oblivious to this first-time mobile grocery cart driver, who wasn’t quite sure what she was doing. For future reference, I suggest that you look both ways from now on when you cross a grocery aisle to make sure you are not in my line of fire.

”We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.”

Romans 12:6

FYI: Esclandre, prosopopoeia, and guerdon were the final three words in the National Spelling Bee, held on May 30, 2008.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Luscious Legacy - Father's Day Tribute

I wrote this years ago. Just this week, I was asked to share a favorite childhood memory to introduce myself to a Rest Ministries summer study group. Of course, this came immediately to mind. I love berries, both for their flavor (not to mention their vibrant colors and fruity fragrances) and for the family legacy and memories that burst into the present when I bite into their juiciness.


“Then God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation:
seed-bearing plants and trees on the land
that bear fruit with seed in it,
according to their various kinds.’
And it was so… And God saw that it was good.”
Genesis 1:11-12

One hot, summer day, when I was a little girl, my daddy introduced me to the delicious hunt for strawberries. We were visiting Grandma and Grandpa Reuman, my mother’s parents, in Attica, New York. Their large home—hand built by Grandpa—overlooked a picturesque valley. I doubt that Dad and I talked much out there in the field behind the house, but just being with him and having him all to myself was a real treat. I couldn’t resist popping a few of the reddest and juiciest sun-warmed treasures into my mouth right there in the field.

Suddenly, the muted, country quiet was broken by an alarm sounding from Attica State Prison, far off in the valley, alerting the community that a prisoner had escaped. The harsh sound scared me to death, and I just knew that the escapee would come get me! Dad tried to allay my fears, explaining that the occasional escapee was usually a “trustee,” a prisoner who was trusted enough to work outside the wall. Such prisoners were typically due to get out of prison soon, but the security of what was familiar was more appealing than freedom, so they’d head downtown to a bar and wait to be captured, successfully extending their tenure. My fears were soothed and we enjoyed our berries with Grandma’s homemade shortcake.

Strawberries have always been a vital part of my summers, even when I did not have easy access to a strawberry field. During the summer, our neighborhood was frequented several times a week by a truck laden with berries. I got just as excited when I heard this truck coming as I did for the ice cream truck (well, almost). These luscious, locally grown berries sold for the tempting price of four quarts for a dollar. Mom would make shortcake and we’d top it all off with a generous spritz of Reddi-Wip. Dad registered his appreciation with groans of delight and lots of lip-smacking.

Before moving to Anderson, my husband and I lived in Northern Michigan where I went berry picking around the 4th of July. When we returned to Indiana, I couldn’t wait for July to come around, only to discover that I was a month late! You can bet I didn’t make that mistake twice.When my parents retired and moved to Anderson to be near my family, Dad and I took up pickin’ once again. For several years, we went to a local fruit and vegetable farm, oftentimes accompanied by my kids, Matt and Beth, who were as young as I was when I picked my first berry. Later, Dad put in a big garden next to his condo, a generous portion of it dedicated to strawberries.

Bethie and Grandpa loved to trek out to the strawberry patch where Beth would load up her t- shirt with berries and bring them in, thrilled with her payload. It was a special time between little Beth and Grandpa, reminiscent of my own special times with my strawberry-loving papa. I plan to take my own grandkids pickin’ someday!

Exodus 20:5-6 tells us that God promises his love “to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Just think: when we receive God’s love and respond with obedience, we pass God’s love on to the next one thousand generations! Is “a thousand generations” simply a metaphor to emphasize the abundance and availability of God’s love? I don’t know. But if the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in Indiana can impact the ecosystem in China, then I certainly think God’s love has its own eternal “butterfly effect.”

Just as we receive a legacy from our Heavenly Father, our own family legacies are also passed on. Enjoying strawberries together is a love-filled legacy, a crimson thread in the enduring weaving that is my family. Such a simple act of grace! Every Father’s Day—appropriately celebrated during strawberry season—I fondly remember my strawberry-loving father, Frank Elmore. Thanks for the legacy, Dad!