“The only disability in life is a bad attitude.”

Today is a pretty day as long as you’re looking out from inside the house because it’s cold, and that dilutes the pretty. No drips from the roof and no melting of the weekend’s snow despite the bright sun is a sign of how cold it is. I had to walk through fairly deep snow to get my newspaper, but my plowman just arrived and shoveled the walk, freed my car and made the mailbox accessible for the mail truck tomorrow. I may go out later, but then again I’m liking the warm house.

When I was a kid, there was a blind girl in a neighborhood a few blocks from mine. I didn’t know her personally, but I knew her name was Patty. I remember her eyes were set in from her face and looked black to me. I don’t know if she ever went to school. I really didn’t know anything about her. Her parents would tie a rope around her waist which allowed her to go to the sidewalk but not into the street. Patty would walk up and down the sidewalk and clap her hands whenever a car went by, and I remember how loud the claps sounded. It didn’t seem strange or cruel to me that she was tied outside. I just figured it was the safest way for her to be there. On the few occasions, I go back to my hometown, the route sometimes takes me right by Patty’s sidewalk. I always wonder about her.

Another person I remember was developmentally disabled though in those days he was considered retarded. I don’t remember his name, but he was an adult when I was still a kid. I remember he always neatly dressed in grey, heavy chino work pants, a collared shirt and a light jacket. He walked everywhere around town and shook hands with just about every man he met. My dad always stopped to say hello and shook hands and always called him by name. Just about everybody did. I know he went to all the funerals at St. Patrick’s. I don’t know about the other churches. He always sat in the back and nobody ever minded. I don’t know what happened to him. We moved away and I never saw him again.

While I was growing up, I never saw anyone else who was in any way disabled. Maybe they were kept inside the house or in hospitals or boarding schools. Patty and the man I mentioned were part of the fabric of my town. I never thought twice about their disabilities. That was just part of who they were.

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30 Comments on ““The only disability in life is a bad attitude.””

  1. im6 Says:

    Not only is today Presidents Day, it’s also Yoko’s 80th birthday. Wow, do I feel old!

    • Hedley Says:

      Having just returned from The Who in Columbus, I feel your pain.

      • Kat Says:

        My Dear Hedley,
        They were old, were they?

      • Hedley Says:

        Kat, There were Zimmer Frames parked all over the Schottenstein Arena.
        I did end up Back Stage but Pete and Rog were long gone.

      • Kat Says:

        Sorry you missed the boys!

      • Hedley Says:

        I have seen the various versions of The Who over the last forty two years. It’s hard to describe what Roger, Peter, John and Keith were like in concert. Take L@L, crank it up and that is about as close as you get.
        Roger’s voice has lost range, Pete sometimes has the energy, like last night, but then again, I am not a 21 year old kid standing in the rain at Charlton getting bombed by inbound beer bottles.
        The Who have seen losses, the years are gone and there is a high level of nostalgia at any show. I was pleased to make the trip.

    • Kat Says:

      Thanks a lot-now I feel really old!

      • Hedley Says:

        Hang on Kat is this some sort of revisionism or has im6 been promoted to im8 ?

        And today we lost Richard Briers which really sucks and Tony Sheridan who im6/im8 will tie to the yokonator.

      • Kat Says:

        I have no idea how he got the promotion. I must have been in a snow induced delusion!

        He wasn’t very old either!

      • im6 Says:

        Looks like I completely skipped im7… age measured in something akin to dog years. Perhaps in honor of Kat, the new measure is squirrel years.

        Never knew Richard Briers so his obit meant nothing to me, but I did see the obit for Tony S. He always struck me as one who got thisclose to the Fab Four — sort of a second string Pete Best.

      • Kat Says:

        im6 or 8,
        If it were measured in squirrel years, the number would be in days, not years!

  2. Spaceman Says:

    All children of god.

  3. olof1 Says:

    There’s nothing beautiful about this day at all. raining and snowing most part of the day and it all started with fog and icy roads. It didn’t get better on my way home but I can at least say it wasn’t boring to drive home 🙂

    We had a death girl in my class when I grew up. I think the teacher made it sort of bigger than we kids did, she couldn’t hear so we always stood in front of her so she could see our mouths when speaking to her. No problem for us kids at all 🙂

    We also had a class with developmentaly disabeled kids in my school too. I can’t remeber thinking that was especially odd. Well one of the kids always played soccer with stones so we did have to watch out in which directions the stones flew so we didn’t get hit by them 🙂 🙂 🙂
    Some parents did have problems having those kids there though so they moved somewhere else after a couple of years.

    Grown ups do tend to create problems when there aren’t any, to bad really. We had no problems with different children at all.

    Have a great day!

    • Kat Says:

      I’m sorry about your weather. Nothing worse than a day which can’t make up its mind about whether to be rain or snow. It makes for dangerous driving and ice later on at night.

      We didn’t have any trouble either with people or kids who were different. We weren’t old enough to have developed the prejudices that adults have.

      I didn’t know any deaf kids until I was working in a secondary school, and she had an interpreter who would stand in front of the class and sign whatever was said.

      Stay warm!!

  4. Caryn Says:

    Hi Kat,
    And here I was thinking my mother was the only parent in the whole world who tied her kids to a tree by a rope around the waist. At least we could get to the sandbox. 🙂

    When I was a kid there were several odd people in my town. I don’t know how else to categorize them except as odd. I don’t know if they had a diagnosed mental illness or not. One wore a winter coat all the time and called herself The Licensor. Another woman reminded me of Margaret Hamilton in The Wizard of Oz; a thin, elderly woman on a bicycle. She rode around town and sold pretty bottles of nothing out of her handle basket. There was also a little old man who walked around looking for something. He would walk along the streets peering into the woods and undergrowth. He always wore a black suit and walked on the side facing oncoming traffic. To avoid being hit by a car, he would hold a white handkerchief behind his back and flick it about like the tail of a nervous deer as he bent over to search for whatever he was seeking. He disappeared from his usual route and my mother said he had been run over. My mother is not sensitive to irony.
    These folks were part of the landscape as I was growing up. From time to time I still picture them in those places.

    Sunny, windy, and cold up here but s### is melting off the roof and pavements. Yay for February sunshine!
    Enjoy the day.

    • Bill S. Says:

      That’s a great story. If the odd man walked facing traffic, no one could see the white handkerchief behind his back

      Kat, exactly how does the subject of disabilities tie in to Presidents’ Day?? Hmmmm……

      • Bill S. Says:

        One of my mother’s aunts, Francis Folsom, was married to Grover Cleveland, the only president to serve, be defeated for re-election, and then serve again four years later.

      • Kat Says:

        The musings don’t always relate to the holiday unless it’s a big one like Christmas, Valentine’s Day or even the 4th when we did stuff in honor of the day. We never did have anything big except have the week off when Presidents Day came.

        The music usually reflects the holiday.

      • Kat Says:

        That’s kind of cool to have a first lady in your family tree. How far away an aunt was she given when he served, both times?

    • Kat Says:

      Hi Caryn,
      Those are really interesting people, and I loved hearing about their peculiarities. I wonder why she called herself The Licensor, and I wonder if the man ever found what he wa looking for before he died?

      We got warmer this afternoon and my sidewalk snow melted, but we didn’t have the drop of the last few days.

      I napped-that is enjoying the day!!

      Have a great night.

  5. Bob Says:

    Unfortunately, when you and I were growing up people with disabilities, especially developmentally disabled people, were put away in institutions to languish until they died. Out of sight and out of mind. It took the courage of President H.W. Bush to sign into law The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1990.

    This law requires that children with disabilities must be educated by their local school districts in the least restrictive manner. Not in special schools but as much as possible included in with all the other kids. Kids with disabilities are now doing very well, some are able to read, write and most are finding jobs after completing high school. The only sad part is that the federal government has never fully funded the act which requires that the states make up the difference. This has led to a patch work of implementation on a school district by school district basis.

    The other great development is Special Olympics. This wonderful program was started by Eunice Schriver in the 1960s. Eunice was a member of the Kennedy family and started Special Olympics in honor of her sister Rosemary who suffered from a developmental disability. Rosemary spent the rest of her long life in a nursing home after her father Joseph P. Kennedy had doctors preform a lobotomy on her in an attempt to cure her disability. I think old man Kennedy was ashamed of his daughter and couldn’t accept her with a disability.

    • Kat Says:

      It is true about the mentally disabled being put in hospitals for th whole of their lives. It happened at the Fernald (spelling?) School here. When they tried to close it, those that lived there couldn’t cope with such a change.

      The No Child Be Left Behind law has made for huge local bills. I know my school district pays for special schools when the school can’t meet the needs of the students. Some of the bills are 20 to 50 thousand a year. When the taxes have to be raised, people get really agitated at the special ed bills. They don’t realize schools are hampered by the federal government and the law.

      I agree he was probably ashamed but lobotomies were not rare. They were considered a way to deal with disabilities and inappropriate behaviors.

  6. Coleen Says:

    Hey Kat!

    Reading this makes me aware that I had a weird childhood. I was placed in a regular school with regular kids, with only a small tweak here or there to define my cerebral palsy – – like having another kid watch me as I would go up and down the steep stairs of the Wall Street School in West Long Branch NJ every day so I would not fall down. The school had been built in the 1890’s and was hardly built with the ADA in mind. Heck – -the ADA had not been invented yet

    The contrast came AFTER school when I had to go to my several day a week physical therapy sessions. There were plenty of kids there with various degrees of CP, including some who had less of a problem than I did.

    All I can remember is that I wanted to be normal like my friends in school, and since I had a kid’s mentality I ignored the kids I knew in therapy. Wish I could take some of those feelings back – –

    No wonder I tell my friemds I grew up in two worlds…

    Waving from Jersey,


    • Kat Says:

      I think that was how it was-a regular school wherever possible unless you were blind or deaf as there was no way to accommodate in those days. Now there are ways to give kids a school experience with all sorts of kids: disabled or not.

      I perfectly understand wanting to be normal like your friends. The other kids in therapy probably had similar feelings. Ignoring them pushed your CP way in the background.

      I find most kids are sensitive to other kids. In the high school where I worked there was a class of developmentally disabled kids, including some with Down syndrome. The other students included them in so many things and treated them as normally as possible. I was proud of my kids.

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