As I age, obituaries have been added to my reading list. The words are always complementary, the family members lovingly listed, education and employment chronicled, and volunteer work touted. The life of each deceased person is quantified as others saw him or her. Wouldn’t it be great if we could write our own obituaries where details about a life well lived could document more personal things about ourselves?
My story would start from the age of my earliest memories. At the age of four years old, we lived in a house near Hialeah Racetrack in Miami, Florida. My brother, Curtis, was born with severe disabilities from Rubella Syndrome, a fact that would end up shaping my life. We moved to Rhode Island shortly thereafter, purchased a summer house on Little Pond, and remodeled it into the family home in which we live today. I attended Oakland Beach School where learning was fun, good grades were easy to get and crossing guard duties were assigned to me. In the sixth grade, I was chosen to go to a program in Washington, DC with other crossing guards from around the country and got a firsthand look at how the country was run and it had a lifelong effect on me.
Gorton Junior High was uneventful, except for getting expelled once because I wore culottes instead of a skirt, and they did not reach the obligatory knee length. (As far as I can remember, this is the only infraction of my life, unless the warning for speeding on my way to Six Flags New England counted.) High school was more engaging, and I managed to get almost all A’s, only saddled with a B here and there when working too late as a waitress at Newport Creamery interfered with studying. This job was a gold mine for me, I was quick and fast and friendly, and all those quarters added up!
During this time, I played a Cordovox with the Young Rhode Islanders, frequently doing USO tours for the servicemen. I was semi-cute, and reportedly had “great legs”, a welcome addition to the almost all male band. I also had great fun playing for weddings and other gigs. While my musical talent was limited, my bandmates excelled in making me look good.
I attended Rhode Island College and obtained a degree in Social Work, starting out my career working at the Association for the Blind where I learned manual sign language to communicate with the clients who were deaf/blind. (This skill would become even more important later in life when fostering/adopting a child who was deaf.) Being hired at the Office of Rehabilitation Services, Services for the Blind become a life affirming career for thirty-five years. I witnessed the emptying of Ladd School in favor of group homes, many laws passed to benefit individuals with visual impairments such as special tax exemptions, and the passage of Special Education Law 94-142 whereby students who were blind and educated out of state at Perkins School for the Blind were mandated to attend their neighborhood public schools with fully sighted peers, a movement which changed the course of integration.
While at RISBVI, I was fortunate to be chosen to attend annual meetings in Washington, DC where I did trainings for other program directors around the country, such as the use of supplementary Medicaid funding to provide social services for individuals with disabilities. I also enjoyed reviewing federal grants for several organizations and enjoyed the complimentary meals and hotel rooms that were provided. Mastering the D.C. Metro, going to the mall with stores, (as opposed to the Washington Mall which is just grass,) and the movies became easy, and I was unafraid to do these things on my own.
Attending regional conferences for the Northeast Rehabilitation Association also became customary, where I would lead a Family Feud-type activity on topics such as “Types of jobs for people who are clumsy”. My workshops always had a little bit of fun added to make the learning more enjoyable.
I have been privileged to have had an easy and pleasurable educational and career experience, but that is only half of the story for my obituary. Next week I will write about my equally gratifying experience as a mother in situations which many others would not find to be so pleasant.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here