So, my editor has procrastinated long enough that it is no longer 2019. Happy New Year everyone! Let’s take a little trip back in time for this post….
Last Monday was my last official visit to Harbour Landing Village for 2019 and it was certainly more interesting than the average visit. To help me the tell the story, allow me to introduce my friend (and editor of this blog), Shaylee.
Hey, hi 👋 this is the aforementioned friend jumping in. Kelsey told me to tell you guys how we met before story time starts. Long story short, we met in an airport on the way to a medical appointment in Montreal, discovered we lived in the same area, and the rest is history.
Okay, back to story time we go. I came over to visit Shaylee one more time before she ditched for Christmas break. We came up to her apartment to get rid of my jacket and then decided it was time to get food. You would think getting food is an easy task; not so much when your friend is also disabled and in a wheelchair. Actually, before we even got to the food, I saw cherry Pepsi being used as a doorstop and immediately wanted it. So, naturally, I asked for some. But I couldn’t get it myself so Shaylee had to.
My hands were pretty full at that moment, but who was I deny a cherry Pepsi to a guest? So, I sent her out into the hallway so I could get around her chair to the box, set my stuff on her tray (almost spilling my water in the process) and got the Pepsi. Kelsey, for her part, did not question the being banished to a hallway.
That whole process took about a half an hour￼ and then we finally made it to the restaurant downstairs. Nothing to eventful happened initially. Some lovely gentlemen moved the chairs for us at our chosen table and we got settled. This is where things started to get a little different from the typical dinner date between friends. My vision is not the greatest on the planet and I don’t follow written words too well, so I had Shaylee read the menu to me. This is pretty standard practice and Shaylee was used to it. Actually, she was used to the whole process: reading the menu, helping me eat/drink, cleaning up after, picking up anything that drops, etc.
Yeah, exactly. It’s just second nature at this point and I’ve found the balance being a “caregiver” and being a friend. I feel weird even saying the word caregiver because doing that stuff is just how hanging out with Kelsey works. She can’t move much and I can (ish) so I do. We talk and catch up like normal friends and all the physical help just sort of happens without us thinking about it. That is, until other people notice it.
For example, as we were eating, the front desk lady working that night (whose also become a friend of mine) came over to chat. As we were talking I popped a bite of cheesecake into Kelsey’s mouth as I had been doing for the past, like, ten minutes. I don’t remember exactly what the front desk lady’s comment was, but it was something along the lines of, “that’s really awesome that you help her out like that….so sweet!”. Then she went into how hard it must be and such. Now, I can’t speak for Kelsey because we’re in different cities as I write this, but that rubbed me the wrong way. Is helping out hard sometimes? Sure. Actually it was that night. I was in a fair bit of pain that night thanks to my own disability, but I knew it was nothing serious and I wanted to have fun with Kelsey so I made it happen. It was definitely worth it and not at all something I need to be complemented on. Although I will say that me functioning through pain brings up something else I’ve been thinking about lately: the change in roles that I experience when hanging out with Kelsey.
In my every day life, I am a person that receives care. People help me get up, get dressed, do my hair, cook for me, etc. When I come home for holidays, my parents like to joke that I am high-maintenance because I do rely on them so much. Yet, when I am with Kelsey, I become the one doing the care-giving. Suddenly I am the one capable of doing all of the things I would normally rely on an able-bodied person for. It’s an interesting identity switch that still mildly baffles me sometimes. It can be a welcome change, though, even if I pay for it the next day.
As you can see, being in a friendship where both people are disabled can be a little weird. Other people can make strange comments and you can even surprise yourself sometimes. That said, friendships with a person who has a disability are just friendships. Shaylee and I treat each other as we would any other friend because we are like any other friend. Keep that in mind as we head into the new year. If you want to start a friendship with someone that has a disability, talk/act the same way you would with anybody else. It will be much appreciated.