Precious Moments

May 14, 2009 at 5:57 pm | Posted in Poetry | 2 Comments
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DSC_0030You might ask why I am posting a poem about my grandfather on a blog about Barton and I & our relationship. My grandfather never questioned the love between Barton and I or how we would manage in our lives. It’s always important to take the time to remember those who have been such an integral part in supporting us in our relationship. When I spoke with my father, he reminded me to cherish the moments with Barton and to cherish the moments of each day.  

Precious Moments
          ~In memory of my grandfather, Rev. Duncan Hunter

You know,
for many years I thought you were a stubborn man,
hard, chocking down your emotions.
Once you shared glimpses of yourself,
gentleness and compassion
spilled over.

After finding mom still and ashen blue,
I stood in the middle of the staircase
listening to your sobs over the newspaper clipping and Frosted cornflakes,
tears streaming down my face, you wiped yours away
for I had lost a mother and you had lost a daughter
and we shared this unspeakable bond.

Spring storms blew between our houses,
only one mile apart,
and when the lights would go out,
I would drive over with a flashlight-
just in time since the wet match could not have lit the tiny tapered wick.

 You would share glimpses of your past,
a comment here or there,
the march in Selma, the burning crosses, the danger you endured.
I heard stories from mom, but from you,
I would only get a hushed inkling
of the work and service that led to so many strides.
I searched for stories, grasping to know my family,
but to no avail,
they were lost in the wind.
I learned about your strength when I traveled to Australia,
a white girl in my face,
cussing me out about those filthy Abos.

Mom blessed our wedding from above,
You blessed our wedding from the pulpit,
and your blessing of love echoed
through the years.
Even recently,
adamant to venture through the nursing home halls
to hold Barton’s hands,
you blessed us with your words, bright eyes and smile.

 And you showed your love for grandmom,
sitting on the hospital bed beside her,
lightly patting her on the knee, on the face,
whispering the most endearing words. 

When Barton and I moved out of state,
knowing that opportunities lay in another place
you and I were both heart broken.
Though you gave me a good challenge
deciphering your consistent words
on the phone,
“I’m getting along today. How are you?”
Our definitions of fine varied from week to week.

You shared Mother Teresa’s dark night of the soul,
a humbled life of service.
Even when the house was dark and cold, you would drive
five miles to the church,
your dedication to the work of God
surpassing all human expectations.
The box of food for those in need always in the
trunk of your car.

 We sat beside you in the pew last Easter,
golden crosses gleaming through white lilies.
This was the first time you took off your robes,|
You held my hand and tapped your watch:
his sermon was taking way too long.

 And Barton even caught you in the act
one night when I got up from dinner to refill a glass of water.
Barton watched you scoot one chicken finger
from the edge of your plate onto mine,
just so you wouldn’t have to eat it.
We laughed about the chicken finger incident
the entire way home. 

You were ninety-one and tired,
ready to go home
but not ready leave grandmom behind.
She will follow you
to the light of our precious God now that you have gone ahead,
preparing the way for her.

 Why, then, am I still sad:
I will miss our inside secrets,
the ones just between us,
a grandfather and his granddaughter,
and will remember to cherish the moments
of each day.

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A Renewed Sense of Gratitude

May 5, 2009 at 1:34 pm | Posted in Speaking Engagements | Leave a comment
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Yesterday, Megan and I spoke at the International Conference on Self Determination. We were part of a panel discussion on making lives of people with disabilities thier own, if every sense of the word. The other panelists ranged from people who once lived in group homes but had transitioned out, those in the process of transitioning out of a group home & even those for whom the move from the house of a relative to a group home was a significant step toward their independence.

Megan and I were participating as the “supposed ideal” example of self-determination. At one point, a colleague even called me the textbook model. In many ways this sounds so ironic to me because I see nothing extraordinary about the situation I’m in. From the very beginning, whether it was parental influence or whether I’m simply hardwired to be stubborn, I had no doubt, ever, that my life would simply unfold in the same way that anyone without a disability would watch their life unfold.

I found myself listening to the other panelists talk about their present life, how they got there, and what their dreams are, and with a fair amount of astonishment realized that quite often I take for granted my gift of total independence and freedom to live the way I choose. I even have my moments, and very often in fact, when I find myself complaining about my work or other responsibilities, and fail to recognize that in many ways I’m living my version of the ideal life that so many people with disabilities haven’t yet achieved.

I’m very grateful to have had opportunities to speak alongside other panelists, for they provided a wake up call for me  snap out of my complacency.

Last night, as Megan and I had dinner, I asked if she would remind me every so often of those who must fight harder for their ideal life, when she sees me begin to slip into laziness. I also hope that the example that Megan and I provide inspires others to bring their dreams to fruition.
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A Place of Creating Dialogue and Sharing Our Story

May 5, 2009 at 1:26 pm | Posted in Speaking Engagements | Leave a comment
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Yesterday, it was a pleasure to sit beside Barton on the panel at the International Conference for Self Determination Conference in Winston Salem, NC. When we first started speaking at conferences, I would translate for Barton, which of course I could never remember verbatim what he said. Now, we have more of a dialogue, playing off of each other, building on the points the other made.

Sitting on panels are a privilege because the audience gets many points of view and can start putting a picture together that includes several types of experiences. As Barton mentioned, we were both blown away by the experiences of the other panelists and both realize how lucky to be where we are, and to have found each other.

One similarity I saw with one of the panelists, who was concerned that if she moved into her own apartment, she would not be able to decorate the apartment to how she wanted paralleled very much to my need to clean our house in an attempt to have control as a compensation or not having control or self expression as a child. It’s so fascinating how what’s going on inside manifests itself on the exterior.

While it’s always fun to tell the story about how we met and our marriage, we included some other points in yesterday’s panel as well. We talked about how self determination and independence encompasses many aspects of life- housing is the largest because it is the most obvious, but there are other aspects- mission & vision, expression, transportation, employment/income, and building relationships. We talked about how we’ve had to create our own system, taking on the responsibility that comes with that freedom. What can hold us back- fear & lack of resources. Creating support systems through mentoring, networking groups and building relationships has been an incredible part of creating that path outside of the system.

Many times people ask how Barton & I “Manage.” Our answer- just like everyone else does. Sometimes we do it right, sometimes we do it wrong, sometimes the flow comes easily, and sometimes we bang our head on the wall until we figure out a different way.
No matter what, it’s always a privilege to hear the journeys of others and share our own journey as well.

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