At the end of the first season of The Arts Club Theatre we did a play called Creeps. It was written by David Freedman. He typed it out using a pencil in his mouth. Mr. Freedman was physically disabled by Cerebral Palsy and life with that condition, in a facility for orphaned or abandoned young men with living with it, was the subject of his play.
Our play was a sensation. People with CP from as far away as Alberta came to see our show. We had a door in the back of the auditorium, off an alley, with only three stairs up to get into our hall, so we carried all our guests in wheelchairs up the stairs and we took out the front row of seats so that they could have pride of place in our audience. I am weeping over the memory of my experience.
On Saturday nights, we did two shows and between them, we were busy cleaning out the theatre, re-staging the set and having dinner. On one of those nights, late into the run of the show, I went into the bathroom and discovered a man trying to do the impossible: He was trying to get to the toilet from his wheelchair in our teeny weeny staff toilet with a cubicle that made what he wanted to do, impossible.
I asked if I could help. He could only make sounds. I had an idea. I told him I’d be right back, and went onto the set and got a urine bottle that was a prop in the play. I went back to the washroom and, as I extended my arm with the bottle, I thought to myself: I’m going to have to lift this guy’s penis. While my brain focused on the horror of willy wrangling, my body carried on doing what needed to be done. I tried to project complete equanimity.
And I pulled it off! I reckon I did a pretty damn good job of it. When my mother was at home, I’d been a bed pan walla, and so once I got started, I became detached, like a professional services practitioner. Afterwards, I helped get him out of the building and into his carrier for the trip home. And as his driver disappeared down the lane, I had an deeply moving moment.
Our play gave me the insight to enjoy with that man, the delight of being human, in sharing an activity that connected souls instead of being penis horror.
I’d been a high school drama teacher before quitting teaching to become part of the Arts Club’s inaugural season. Creepsshowed me how mighty powerful theatre could be. That play turned me into a person I wanted to be: Accepting, kind and helpful. The person who I’d been before the play would have excused himself and withdrawn from the bathroom that evening, and gone into the guests washroom in the foyer.
And here I am, fifty years later, talking, seizing and shaking, as I struggled to talk to Dr. Shoja yesterday morning. I spoke with equal communication compromise as my friend with CP. Alanis Morrisette might say, Isn’t It Ironic.
I began the day with a spa followed a short walk with Her Highness so that I was back home for my Zoom session with Dr. Shoja. We had a great session and then I bid her goodbye indefinitely.
Dr. Shoja: I’ve gone through so much with her over the past five years. I think, yesterday, that she gave me a hint. I said: “I feel taking a break from therapy allows me to feel better adapted to life and my condition.” That’s true, she said: “I get that. You want to say to yourself, okay, this is who I am, this is how it’s going to be, let’s get on with it.”
Her help remains forever available.
I told her that I thought I’d figured out why I can talk to people on the trails but not clerks in stores or offices. My theory is that it’s about ‘power.’
Clerks are the face of a store, medical practice, or government office. I am going to them ‘for’ something—for goods or services. They have something I need or want; therefore, they have power and it’s their power that silences me. People on the trails have no power. That’s what I told Dr. Shoja, and she wholeheartedly agreed. She understood what I’d said enthusiastically.
“Absolutely right! The DNA of a person in your situation finds power threatening. Of course it’s a trigger!”
I will miss her, but I won’t miss being in therapy.
After our session, I went into the village for some supplies in case Dwayne arrived needing lunch. I came home, did some yard work, and then got my book and sat myself down in the sunshine to await his arrival.
Dwayne is a dear friend. He was the realtor who helped me, against all odds, sell my condo very suddenly and then to get this wonderful log home I live in now. Yesterday was the first time he’s been back since we came to suss out this place four years ago.
When he got here, we had a long, wonderful hug. I haven’t touched anyone in over a year. It felt very, very good. I made lunch and we ate on the deck, then we went for a forest walk together before he left to catch the ferry. It was wonderful to be with a long-time friend.
Today dawned wet and dark. Honestly, I was glad to see the gentle rain. I’m going to enjoy the walk this morning in the fragrant, humid breath of the forest. The rest of the day will be spent reading.