Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Personal victory moment

Michael J Fox is back on TV this season and this time the character just like the actor- has Parkinson's disease. A lot of the show's intended humor comes from him coming to terms with disability and interacting with the outside world as the man he plays decides to return to his successful newscaster career and is not about to let his condition stop him. You may want to catch the NBC sitcom as soon as you can as the ratings so far don't warrant a second season. Before you say that it may be American audience not comfortable seeing art imitating life and someone with such visible disability, let me say that I've seen Fox, who was a comedic genius of the 80's and 90's in much funnier things than this. Either way- before the show premiered the network decided to promote it with a scene that has the family at the table having dinner together. Fox is reaching out slowly but surely to put food on everyone's plate. Focused, he gets on target.  "Can you not  have a personal victory right now?" his wife interrupts. "We're starving". It's intended as comedy of course and it shows Fox is comfortable making fun of himself. But it made me think of my own personal experiences. A lot of times when I was a child and even a teenager if we were in hurry my parents would just do things for me, "Because there wasn't a time for me to do it myself". Sometimes it involved finishing dressing me up or putting on my shoes, although I could always do it myself. Sitting me in the car by grabbing me from the car although I've done it myself a million times. Sometimes it was about getting me out of my bath or rinsing my hair. Because it was quicker and they did not have the patience. It's odd to think of independence as something you need to find time for, something that isn't practical, something that gets in the way. My mother has always thought of me doing things for myself as some kind of demonstration. Something I did to show everyone that I could. She didn't quite understand that I've done it, because that's what people do. Not to prove to anyone that I can, not to have a personal victory moment. I can either function in the society by myself and do all those things or I can't, and there are no short cuts. It was not being stubborn, but having people do things for me didn't  help me do the things I needed to do on my own. And in ways I felt violated. Not only because someone would literally walk in on me having a bath. But they would override my independence and often violate my personal space because at the time it wasn't convenient. Because you obviously are  allowed to flourish when everyone has time for it. And when that happens in un-does so many things I've done for myself with one move or a harsh remark. I had very few avenues to express myself, very few moments that were only mine. Not a lot of moments that you can keep private, because for a lot of things I had to rely on other people. The more you feel dependent the more independent I wanted to be. It wasn't a hobby or something I did for show. I wanted to live my life. And in life people dress themselves and feed themselves and go places. Do dishes, laundry and shop and clean. I wanted to be normal, but how in so many ways I felt abnormal. I didn't do it to be cute.

1 comment:

  1. "Can you not have a personal victory right now?" his wife interrupts. "We're starving".
    That made me laugh! I actually thought it a very funny instance of comedy scriptwriting, Ralph.

    And this piece of yours, a poignant and insightful piece of writing, it is, too. I'd use it for the training course that I imagine giving every carer who works with my daughter.

    But it's a hard lesson for parents (Dads and Mums) to learn. Perhaps one of the most important too - to give our child time and space. All our children. I learned it from another parent, my colleague Karen who was with us in Munich. By her example, when our daughters were very small and for years as they grew up, even now, she showed me the importance of making and giving time.

    But I'm a mere Dad, Ralph, not a paragon of perfection. And I am guilty of all the same failings as your Mum. "Because it was quicker and [I] did not have the patience." How true and how not true. I drew on deep, unsuspected, wells of patience as a Dad. My life was yoked to my growing daughter's life, hourly, daily, weekly; my life beat to the rhythm of her life; to create the spaces and time she needed to be the person she was becoming. (Perhaps that's what Paces is all about - carving out a space and time where other children like Sarah can not have their time and space violated? Now there's a thought for another day!) But I'm a mere Dad, Ralph, and in succeeding I also failed. No matter how deep the well of patience, it was never deep enough. And the top of that well, like cream on the bottle of milk, is guilt: the "one move or harsh remark" (oh how I regret my times of impatience and frustration!) that "undoes so many things" because "at the time it wasn't convenient".

    I hope I got it much more often right than wrong, this “being a Dad” thing. I wonder how my Dad felt bringing me up?

    Keep writing, Ralph.