We had all arranged ourselves for our flight to Halifax and were settling in. It was a small plane with a two and two configuration and as there were 5 of us Joe ended up sitting on the aisle with someone else and the girls had their choice of seats in the row behind. Sadie chose to sit next to me by the window and was as exited as one would both expect and hope for when we took off.
About an hour into the flight Sadie announced that she needed to go to the bathroom. I told her that I get up only once on a plane, to get off, so she’d have to crawl over me to get out. She thought this was funny and I ended up being a playground obstacle that she scrambled over, giggling the whole time. This motion and the unusual entry of Sadie into the aisle was noticed by a girl in the seat behind, a girl of about Sadie’s age.
Sadie came back and it was a dive into the seat next to me that got her there. Sometimes disability is just plain a fun thing. She occupied herself chatting with me, watching a show on the screen in front of her and looking out the window. Amazingly, sometimes she managed all three.
Landing brought more excitement. We were here, the vacation, or as Sadie said it, “Vacay” was about to begin. I get off last because I wait for the chair, and an empty plane so I’m not on display as I get out of my seat. Sadie was just set to scramble over me again when the face of the girl behind came between the seats, and set about watching. Clearly eager to see how Sadie managed getting over me.
Sadie saw this. Long ago Sadie expressed to me how much she hates it when people stare at us. She doesn’t like it for me. But she hates it for her. She doesn’t understand the need of it. She doesn’t like how it makes her feel. For her it’s one of the downsides of being in my life. It happens all the time.
Even though it happens all the time, this was pretty blatant and this was Sadie’s peer. I watched to see how she’d handle it. Sadie turned to the girl with a look that would scare Medusa. It’s simply said, “STOP!” in a way that communicated that there was no other option. Sadie’s eyes never left the girl’s eyes. She watched here watching us.
Then the girls head slowly pulled back. And then, was gone.
As if nothing happened, Sadie was up and giggling and leaping over me into the aisle. She joined her the others as they deplaned and I waited for my chair, and privacy.
It’s been interesting to see that the girls, who have a choice, make that choice. They could easily decide that they don’t want to be around me much when were are out. That has always been an option. They could simply walk with Joe, or when we are with other family, walk with them. Sadie could have chosen to sit someone else, there were other choices. But they didn’t make that choice. They chose instead, each of them, to develop their own strategies for dealing with the stares, the looks of disapproval, the needless cruel commentary that is part of being in relationship to someone like me.
It thrilled me that Sadie clearly saw that I wasn’t the problem.
I wasn’t the problem.
I need to say it again, for me.
I wasn’t the problem
And that I was worth being around in spite of all the rest of it.
Love takes many forms. For those of us who are different. This is one of them.