Today, through the course of my work, I needed to contact Dan. We've not spoken in a few years but the absence of contact wasn't an indicator of anything more than distance and full lives. Every time we talk it's as if the years colapse and only days exist between conversations. It's nice to have people in your life who transend time. Dan is one of those guys.
I first met Dan at a conference where we were both presenting differing sessions. He had a booth in the display area as did I. He was hawking 'tees' and I was hawking books. He wandered down by our stall and stopped to chat for a bit. He leaned back in his wheelchair and out came a sense of humour that was refreshingly real. We swapped stories and then phone numbers. We kept in touch mainly by ending up at similar conferences and having booths in the display area.
After Dan, we met his wife, his baby, his family. He was the first person to ever really speak to me in a way that I understood about disability pride. He wasn't just talking a good game, he was speaking of something deep within. His journey, which began with a crash, had brought him new places and given him new ideas and fresh ideals. Truly cool people don't try ... they just are. Dan's that guy.
So we talked and caught up and then we did some work things. Afterwards I was telling him about being part of the club now, being in a wheelchair and all. I told the truth, that the transition from walking to rolling wasn't a big deal to me. We laughed a bit and Dan gave me formal welcome to the home team. But then, there was something I did want to talk to someone about. Someone who would take me seriously and someone who would be able to advise. I needed, and have needed for a while, a mentor.
I don't mind being disabled, for me. But sometimes I feel badly for Joe. He has to work so much harder now. Lifting the chair and cramming it into the trunk of a Volkswagon Beetle. Getting me up and out of the chair. Helping me up hills. He hasn't complained and wouldn't. He's that kind of guy. But still I feel guilty. Only sometimes.
I told Dan, a friend I've not spoken to in a couple of years, about this. He paused and considered what I was saying. It helped that he knew me, he knew Joe and he'd seen us in relationship to each other. Then we talked. Without flinching we talked about what our disability meant, not to us, but to those who love us. He was able to take me through a few realizations, we deftly stepped around the blocks in my thinking and gently he instructed me to let go of some things that I needed to finally release from my grasp.
Dan by age is my junior, but in wheelchair years he is my senior. He was willing to give from his life, his heart go mine. This is the essence of community. This is what we as disabled people through blogs, through communion can do for each other. There are things I can't talk to with the bi-peds. There are things that I know would be shushed away. But I still need that guidance from one who's been there.
My wheelchair moves me through life, but it's my community that I need to lean on - for support - every now and then.