Friday, September 25, 2009


When it comes to thinking, there may possibly be no better aid, no more effective facilitator than the water exercise belt. It’s a simple technology really, simple but brilliant. There’s a piece of foam rubber to go around your back, a belt to tighten through it, and a buckle for the belt. Once you’re in it you can move in deep water without having to worry about whether your head will go under. Relieved of that concern, standing upright with your legs free to move without attention to where you are stepping, your mind is at liberty to wander.
This morning my mind wandered off into territory usually occupied by my buddy and colleague Lenora, the territory of possible selves. This is familiar territory for her. She works primarily with kids, helping them imagine hopeful possibilities for their future selves. This morning it felt natural for me to be there, seeing as how I was floating along, maybe being noticed by strangers who, humorously and impossibly, might be thinking of me as a jock, an exercise fanatic. Yes, I know it’s unlikely. But still it’s possible. Strangers, after all, know so little about your history. They know only the self they see, and the me these strangers see is out in a bathing suit around 7:00 AM. You can’t really blame them if they’ve misunderstood, can you?
Having wandered there, my thoughts continued on until they came to the work that is coming up for me, a trip to Vancouver, an evening with the parents of children with severe disabilities. A funny thing happened in the planning of this event. It was organized by the staff of Sunny Hill Health Centre. They planned a parents’ evening on hope and advertised it. To their surprise they began to get a very enthusiastic registration, not only from the parents for whom the evening was planned, but also from the parents of grown children with severe disabilities. Once a parent, always a parent—as far as hope is concerned.
Hope, where parents are concerned, shrinks itself down from the rosy future picture to the present reality. I’ve heard it said—and thought more than once myself—that the earth’s population would likely die out altogether if parents at the prenatal stage were fully informed about the challenges they were taking on. Anticipating the birth of our children we imagine, without really knowing we are imagining it, laughing with bubble-blowing babies, glowing over honour-role graduates, bragging to our fellow seniors about our compassionate care-giving children, there to help us in our old age. We imagine a blissful state of loving parenthood with ourselves at the centre of wisdom. It is a future anyone would covet.
Though few parents are awarded the luxury of such a reality, none are more challenged to rise to the task of becoming possible selves than the parents of children with severe disabilities. Without warning or preparation they are called upon to be so many things they never intended to be—loyal defenders, advocates, brave and cheerful accepters, special educators, medical experts, managers of staff—all possible, but not hoped for, not hoped for at first anyway. Later—prodded by an urgent necessity--they hope to be all these things, and they work toward that hope. The age at which a dependent child becomes a dependent adult is not a magic age. This, perhaps, explains how it happened that so many of the registrants at the hope session for parents are not the parents of children, but rather the parents of adults.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Wendy

I met you at talk you did in Burnaby for parents, organized by Maria of Sunnyhill.

You mentioned you would be able to write the IF poem on your blog.

I would really appreciate this addition.

Thank you