Recently I've read several posts dealing with how acquaintances and the general public feel about the "normal" people that are part of a disabled person's inner circle. They could be blood relatives, spouses, or just close friends, and they are often deemed as "special" because it's assumed they have sacrificed normality in order to be a part of the disabled person's life. You can read my friend Kimmie Jones' take on the subject here and her friend Mary Evelyn Smith's eloquent perspective here. In fact, I strongly encourage you to do so.
But I've got something to say about it, too. Actually, I think I'll let the "normal" person in my life do the talking. With his kind permission I'm going to share with you here what Mr Spashionista wrote on his Facebook wall for our last anniversary.
"Today is the most important day of the year for me. On this day, in 1990, Alicia said I do and agreed to be my wife. We were pretty stupid when we got married. We had no plan and no clue what we were trying to do. We bought a house in the middle of the projects. We had a gas guzzling van. We bounced checks and a blown tire would cause effects that would last for a month. We were broke all the time.
"We made bad decisions but we learned. Not every year has been easy. We went through 6 years of a job where I worked 12 hours a day, 7 days a week to try to get ahead. We survived a hurricane, an ice storm and a flood. We have dealt with the death of friends and family, betrayal, hospitalization, burglary, vandalism, and a home invasion.
"There were days when we fought. When it seemed like the best thing to do was to give up like most of the people we knew. But in the end we always decided to stick with it. That's how I learned what love is really all about. It's not about that crazy excitement you have when you're first with someone. We had that just like every one does. It's about sticking it out when times are hard. It's about telling the other person the bad things they need to hear even if it's hard to say. It's about reminding them how amazing they are when they forget. It's about building something over time. It's about understanding that you are stronger standing beside this person than you would ever be on your own. Eventually you arrive at a point where you can't imagine what life would be like without this person beside you. They literally have become half of who you are. When the preacher man said "and now you are one" this is what he meant.
"Everything I am today, everything I have I owe to my wife Alicia. I still get that crazy feeling when I look in your eyes. Thank you for the last 23 years, baby. I need you for at least 27 more at which point we'll review your contract.
"I love you."
Does this sound like a person who martyred himself and sacrificed his "normal" life to take care of a disabled person? Is he "special" for sticking with me?
I'll tell you a secret. Just because you look normal doesn't mean you're not physically disabled. Some physical disabilities aren't visible, but can be quite painful. I'll tell you something else you may want to think about when you consider the "special" person dynamic. The longer you live the more likely you are to develop a disability. Will that make your friends and loved ones more special than they already are?
Remember I'm here to set fire to all of these ridiculous stereotypes about the disabled and replace them with the message that, just like the able-bodied, we aren't all the same. True, some of us revel in being pitied, but just as many if not more are every bit as special as any able-bodied person around them.