Yes, the parent of one of my roommates actually calls our house that. It’s also been called the “home of the Super Gimp” by a dear friend of ours with Muscular Dystrophy who died last winter. The first was meant as an insult, the later as a compliment.
Marc was amazed that my significant other, with Cerebral Palsy was able to have a loving devoted woman, and two wonderful kids. Things he’d always wanted for himself, and found his own disability standing in the way. Especially the children, as both he and his brother had/have Duchene’s Muscular Dystrophy and he would never risk passing that on to another generation.
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My roommate’s parents can’t understand why she’d move out of their home and into ours to ‘deal with all of those people’s problems’. I suppose they expected her to stay living at home on their couch while taking care of her teen sister’s son, working her social and work schedule around her sister’s social schedule so she’d be home to babysit for free. Oh, and paying rent for the privilege. Ok, granted, when I’m having a bad breathing day, or my fibromyalgia has me laid up in bed unable to focus on anything she makes sure she’s home to help make dinner before she goes out with her friends. She’s spent her lunch breaks in the hospital down the street from her work visiting myself or my other half when we were admitted. She sometimes helps my son with his math, and is helping teach my daughter how to cook. But these things aren’t a near daily occurrence, and we don’t ask them, she just does.
Everyone in our household has some sort of sometimes serious medical condition, two of us are permanently disabled, one is still trying to figure out what is going on with her body, and the kids are just.. hope and promise of overcoming theirs. And yet, despite our physical failings, and my son’s autism, we are a loving cohesive household who functions well as a whole even if the individuals have many weak areas. Together our ability outweighs that of the individuals. Together we raise and teach two children compassion, compromise, love, and what they need to know to thrive and survive in this world we all find ourselves in. We are a family. My roommate is more a sister than a friend.
Now we are looking to move north several hours, closer to my mother and into an area with lower rent and more job opportunities for my roommate, at least in her field. Yes, there may be jobs opening here with some of the new construction they're doing.. in 2014. In the meantime she’s stuck working at McDonalds as crew, because they won’t put her on as manager due to medical restrictions. Of course her parents are less than thrilled with the move further “away from her family”. “Why do you want to stay with those cripples in that cripple house?”
I don’t trust myself to talk to her parents any longer. That’s my other half they’re referring to, my children; doesn’t matter about me, I’m thick skinned that way. Were it just me I’d just laugh at them and call them unimaginative. These are children who've played with their grandson, who've helped pick out birthday presents for him, who've drawn him cards when he broke his leg, who love their daughter as much as they do any of their aunts or uncles. More, honestly since they see her every day and they haven’t seen their blood aunts in years as they’re in other states. It doesn’t help they can’t talk to their daughter on the phone without making her break down in tears. They insist she should at least “move out on her own” so she can make larger payments on her student loans. Yes, larger payments by living alone in a big city while working for minimum wage at McDonalds. Like that is even a realistic idea right now. She could maybe achieve the standard of living she has now (still below poverty level, but not sinking) if she worked two full time jobs. But where would she find these jobs (because she’s mostly not getting full time hours at McDonalds)? And when is she supposed to live?
I suppose their attitude about our numerous disabilities should tell me enough about them not to expect a realistic world view. I wish they would stop trying to hurt and shame their daughter though. Every time they start on her I want to take the phone and yell at them, and I can’t because while she is family, they are not. Yet they are her family. I don’t want to make things worse, but I don’t know how to make things better. I want to tell them they don’t know what family is, or is supposed to be.
Marc would do it. He’d take the phone and he’d tell them exactly what he thought, and everyone else’s opinion be damned. Sometimes I can hear him whispering in my ear still. Most days I wish I could. Marc was good at pissing people off, but he also made them think, even if they would never later admit it. He’d tell them to take their pity and discrimination and shove it where the sun didn’t shine. He was family too, even though he was on the opposite coast in a different country and we never actually physically met.
Maybe one day I’ll tell them this isn’t the Cripple House, this is the House of the Super Gimp, and WE are family. Nothing else matters.