I don't work any more because I don't work any more.
I don’t know what the programme was but I remember the great Bill Dean who played the legendary Harry Cross in Brookside, (just think of Ricky Tomlinson only with sharper wit) saying:
“There are three useless things in this world. A clockwork orange, a one legged man at an arse kicking party and you.” Other popular similes include a chocolate teapot, an ashtray on a motorbike and a vacuum cleaner in space. Whatever term you would choose-I like the one legged man, it would be aimed at someone or something that served no useful purpose. But despite any criticism we get, feeling useful is something we want.
If you’re like me, this can sometimes be difficult. I am retired through ill health, divorced, isolated from my daughter and go for days on end without speaking to anyone. Retirement coincided with the birth of Rose. It also came with increased fatigue, failing mobility, increasing weight, more barriers in the home and a developing attitude from others that I was just becoming the lump on the sofa who had trouble trying not to wet himself.
To cut a long story short, this go to me and there followed depression, anger and separation. In the usual day to day tumult of domestic trials and tribulations when things went awry, my suggestions would often be scorned; not openly but by more subtle means. And I wasn’t getting paranoid. I know when I’m being cast aside. I’ve had a whole life of teaching so I can read people and detect fine changes of attitude and opinion. So can many other people of course but some can’t. And some can’t ever consider themselves to be guilty of such change due to high levels of sanctimony.
No-one liked my “Just because you think it, it doesn’t make it true” mantra. I mean people used to think the earth was flat. See how much trouble Copernicus had convincing everyone the sun didn’t actually orbit around the earth. Massive misconceptions we find almost laughable but for every massive one there must be millions of small ones.
Think about the misconceptions and myths surrounding disabled people. Yes, we may rely on others for certain things but that doesn’t mean we are clueless when it comes to finding out why the washing machine has stopped working or why the cutlery drawer won’t open, sending the whole household into melt down.
Thankfully I have had friends for a long time. They remember the days of wild partying and acts of foolish bravado. Oh that night in December when we came out of the pub to see gigantic waves crashing over the promenade wall. Did I regret hooking myself to the railings while a breaker threw itself all over me firing a hard pebble straight onto my nose causing massive bleeding to go along with the massive saturation? No. I laughed. We still laugh about it today, thirty four years later.
With this sort of history and the wisdom of age we may have calmed down a bit but the spark is still there. All right, it might need some planning but I can still go out and have a good time.
Then there was work. People relied on me. I relied on other people. Mostly I was thanked and appreciated for making a positive impact on the lives of the young people I taught and the community I worked in.
When that all goes; the salary, the inter-dependence, the community and the whole business of the business, are we right to feel a diminution of our use as a functioning human being?
I’m now a wheelchair user. Am I now restricted in my potential for usefulness? What about the “Does he take sugar?” scenario? It’s happened so often.
On the contrary. I feel motivated to prove my independence. Yet some will tilt their patronising little head to one side and say:
“What about when you can’t do anything for yourself?”
I’ll tell you now, there will always be something I can do for myself. I will do as much as I can while I have a breath left in this ailing body. “As sure as hell I will,” to quote John Wayne. Because that spark is a big spark.
I do have my uses. I may cause mayhem with the wheelchair. I will cause dents and scratches in both mine and other household but I will cook for you and entertain you.
I have to laugh when I’m out and about-especially in the wheelchair. People will approach me tentatively and be quite nervous about addressing me in an appropriate manner but after one hefty slice of my sledgehammer wit, the barriers fall and comfort swiftly returns. Soon my daughter goes to school. I will not be sitting here passively watching from afar. I won’t be raising merry hell or anything like that but I will become interactive with the progress of her young life. So have a think about the things you do. Don’t dwell on what you used to do. We have experience. How valuable is that?
My old mate Stash often reads these posts and leaves some curt barbed comment. But he once paid me a fine compliment: “Steve, you’re a c*** but you can cook.