On June 8th, the anniversary of a very serious traffic accident now 36 years ago, Roger B. Jones, “the Ability Guy” reflects on living with a disability and the events that have defined the year that was.
Tomorrow, June 8, will mark the 36th anniversary since a fateful trip on the TransCanada Highway between Halifax and Truro, Nova Scotia, rendered me a quadriplegic and changed my life forever. Each year I reflect on that day and what has transpired since that time.
To the uninitiated, you might think that people with disabilities are suffering, bitter and angry souls, deserving of your sympathy. In my experience, the opposite is truer. I certainly hope that is the case with me. Dealing with traumatic events often seems to help build character, resilience, and a unique understanding of the human condition. That is why I am still surprised after all these years, at the number of times complete strangers will inquire about my well-being, tell me how sorry they are about “my condition”, or offer to pray for me. I try to be courteous, but it does take an effort. Sometimes I just want to lash out and say something rude, but I realize that most people have good intentions (despite their lack of couth).
Some of us are wrestling with major health concerns and complications, directly related to disabilities. However, this is just a part of life, no different than teenage pimples, menopause, or STDs. I’m sure nobody wants to have these problems, but we deal with them and move on. Yet for some people, this is the focal point of their relationships and conversations with disabled people. I don’t want to be defined by my ailments, but I recognize and accept that they are a part of who I am.
As we reach the midpoint of 2021, I can’t help but revel at the craziness of the past year. It seems like something out of a movie. Cities and entire countries opening and closing sporadically, viruses and mutations, corporate fraud, racial backlash, and obscene disparities in wealth distribution, reads like an apocalypse plot for a Hollywood feature film. Only this time, it is real life!
COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc around the world. It is hard to believe that a year has passed since we first heard about the novel coronavirus originating in China. In the beginning, I (like many others), downplayed the threat and didn’t truly believe that we would experience a pandemic. After all, SARS wasn’t that destructive here and things like Ebola were largely contained in other parts of the globe. Little did we know that this new virus would be so resilient and disruptive. It has transformed our lives and exposed the nasty underbelly of society. Seniors, people with disabilities and diverse populations have been especially hard hit, while multinational corporations and exploiters have thrived. Being a Black, quadriplegic on a fixed income has become more of a liability in the current environment.
What about the good? I continue to hear stories about kind, helpful neighbours, innovative technology, and compassionate healthcare workers. Science has become relevant again and Donald Trump is out of the limelight! I have reconnected with many friends and family over the past year and plan to do more of the same. My body is failing somewhat but there are strategies in place to contend with it. I got my 2nd vaccine shot and no side effects of note. Overall, life is complicated but good.
June 8, 1985, for me, is a day that will live in infamy. I will continue to look back but always move forward. My love for life grows stronger each day, but I think I am also getting more disheartened by some segments of our society. I just can’t understand the selfishness of the anti-maskers, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, Holocaust deniers and the other nut cases whose numbers seem to be swelling. My only comfort comes from the resurgence of youth activists rebelling against the status quo and haters.
Be glad that June 8 only comes once a year, so you only need to hear my thoughts annually. Stay safe but get out and enjoy nature when you can.
Roger B Jones
June 7, 2021
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