of a Man
by Robert Christy
My name is Bob and I have lived and am living a very full, wonderful life as a son, brother, husband, father, father-in-law, and grandfather. I have studied at three post- secondary institutions, received bachelor and master degrees from Canada's two top universities, had a 30-year career with the federal government. People want to tell me what's best for me. I have cerebral palsy. When I was young, I was popular in the community and at school, received high grades through working hard and exercising an agile mind, did everything other kids my age did; yet a close relative thought that I should have been "destroyed at birth", because I have cerebral palsy.
I'm a raging extrovert, energized by people and my humourous nature when I am with them. Yet those who paid my salary put me into introvert-natured jobs of research and policy writing, refusing me the opportunity to do the things I knew that I could do best. When I didn't "shine" or meet the potential that those who knew me in my youth thought that I should achieve, people could justifiable say, "What do you expect? He has cerebral palsy."
I know many people from all walks of life. I knew a professor, now dead, who taught in a major Canadian university; I am friends with an Anglican priest and her spouse, a water resources economist who is in Who's Who; and I'm the spouse of a clergy person who is one of the leaders of the largest Protestant denomination in Canada. We all have cerebral palsy. I've traveled — stood on the Great Wall in China and cruised down the Yangtze River, through the Three Gorges; been on safari, swam in the Indian Ocean and played golf in Kenya; walked in the sand on the beaches of Trinidad; walked in Lima Peru's main square; driven a car in England, Scotland, Ireland (North and South) and Whales; and prayed at the Western Wall of the Old Temple in Jerusalem. I paid for it all myself, through writing contracts, even though I have cerebral palsy.
But now I cry. For the plight of Robert Latimer and his family who will suffer for ten long years because, in their frustration, ignorance, and grudgingly I'll say love, followed their own pig-headiness, apparently did not listen to the wisdom of others and did not grasp the help that was there for Tracy. Isn't Saskatchewan the cradle and genesis of nearly all of Canada's social programs? For the stupidity of people in our so-called high-literacy nation that think cerebral palsy hurts — It doesn't!!! What hurts is the attitude of others and atrophy when muscles are not used (use them or lose them).
Physiotherapy and patterning help blood flow and eases any pain.
For the many people that, in their ignorance, think Robert did the "right thing"; that think perhaps, murder, if committed in love to save someone from a "horrible life", is okay if a disabled person dies. Would they feel that way if a person killed another out of love if that "loved one" chose to live a horrible life as a street person? And I cry for politicians who have long forgotten the promises made in 1981, the International Year of Disabled Persons, and could be very easily tempted, to ensure votes, listen to whoever makes the loudest noise, regardless whether that "noise" is right or wrong.
But maybe I cry most of all for me, who, no matter how clever, diligent or successful I am or may yet become, will always be judged and known, in a negative non- flattering way as "Bob, the man with cerebral palsy.
"Rant of a Man With Cerebral Palsy" by Robert Christy first appeared in Macleans Magazine, titled "Life with cerebral palsy" - Feb. 5, 2001.
Robert Christy is a free lance writer and consultant in Ottawa.
CHN wishes to thank Mr. Christie for permission to use his article
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