SUBMISSION: Beautiful Old Age
SUBMISSION: What will be left behind?
SUBMISSION: I <3 stimulants, but my <3 doesn’t
3 HOURS TO GO
It’s Saturday morning in south-west London, and my family’s challenge for today is getting my dad out of the house. We estimate this will take 180 minutes. Why so long? There are a million strands to this answer, but the short version is that my dad is disabled.
He suffers from a degenerative illness called Multiple Sclerosis, which has caused his nervous system to decline rapidly. He was diagnosed when I was 3 years old; since then we’ve watched his vision distort, his speech slur, and his body gradually freeze into paralysis - limb by limb. There is no cure.
Needless to say, my father rarely leaves the house. But when situation demands it - such as today, my grandmother’s birthday party - it can be done. It’s a lengthy, frustrating and wryly amusing process. Let me give you an insight.
2.5 HOURS TO GO
Progress so far is minimal. Dad is awake, but is refusing to start getting ready, as ‘it won’t take that much time’. A common frustration shared by most carers is that disabled people often over- or under-estimate the impact their illness has on the lives of them and those around them. Biting back criticism that his delusions are interrupting her hair-straightening schedule, my mother leaves him be.
2 HOURS TO GO
Dad sits by the window, waiting for his breakfast. I’m upstairs, gumming my fingers together with sellotape and tissue-paper, wrapping granny a book she’ll never read. Suddenly, dad hollers my name. I jump up and rush down to see what’s wrong. He sits serenely in his chair: ‘There are 5 silver cars in a row outside. I’ve never seen that before. I want you to take a photograph of them’. Grumbling about wasted time and latent OCD, I comply. Then I think how sad it is that my dad sees so little of the outside world that this unremarkable phenomenon - so common in London with its 2.5 million cars - is truly amazing to his eyes.
1 HOUR TO GO
Dad’s been bathed and put into the smartest clothes he owns (NB: tracksuits replace real suits for many disabled adults…). We spend half an hour arguing about shaving. We say he should because it’s a formal occasion. He says he shouldn’t because it’s only family. In fact, I know he wants one, but is too proud to admit he can’t do it himself anymore.
5 MINUTES TO GO
Wheelchair packed? Disabled badge in car? Emergency portapotty? Presents for granny?
Pre-journey toilet trip? Not necessary, apparently.
Hipflask? Tempting, but no.
-15 MINUTES TO GO:
Turns out he did need that pre-journey toilet break after all…
This is what it takes for my dad, like thousands of other disabled people, to get out into London and experience the city he lives in.
Too bad he found it so tiring that he fell asleep in the car and didn’t see any of it.
SUBMISSION: Obstruction. Please remain confused.
SUBMISSION: Consumer Culture
SUBMISSION: Happier to be Healthier