“I instantly gravitated towards him because he was so handsome and confident. He also had/has stellar taste in music and we spent the next few hours talking about our favorite bands. I almost forgot about the others who were with us…I spent the entire evening just talking to him. The connection was powerful…”
When I first met my case manager Amy a few months ago, I knew I would really like her. There was something about the way she talked to me, totally non-judgmentally that made me realize quickly that she was going to do her best to “get”me. In the time that I have worked with her, she has been both supportive and genuine. When I have been stressed out or overwhelmed, she has simply talked me through it, always giving me gentle assurance that she was willing to listen in an effort to understand and help me work out whatever the issue was. She has always told me I was going to be okay and that together, we were going to make things better.
One day during a session, Amy asked how my week had been. After I shared both my struggles and my successes, I turned the tables a bit. As we have spent time together, I have asked Amy some things about her life, wanting to know a little more about this ally who knows various details about some of my most complex issues. Amy was more than willing to comply. A few months ago she told me she was engaged to a wonderful guy named Jordan. Then she told me that she was getting married on October 5th. Since my birthday is the day before, I knew what day of the week that was. “Wait, ” I said, a bit confused. Isn’t that a Monday?” She laughed. “Yes.” My confusion remained for a beat or two.
“Jordan was injured during his time in Iraq.” She explained. “He was part of the Mobil-Maintenance unit, fixing vehicles of all sorts. There was a work accident that left him with severe brain damage, and eight compressed disks, four in his neck and four in his back.
Jordan’s traumatic brain injury causes significant impairment with memory and concentration and is even more intense because he also has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The combination of these diagnoses has impacted his daily functioning, especially in social, occupational and educational realms. We decided to get married on October 5th because that is the day we officially started dating four years ago. Since Jordan gets frustrated with how difficult it is for him to remember things, we thought it would be a good idea to just keep the same date, to make life a little bit easier for him…
A few weeks later, she told me “We decided not to have much in the way of a ceremony because I did not want to overwhelm him on a day that was supposed to be solely full of joy. Our wedding day was quiet and low key but it was a truly wonderful day.”
When I first heard the story I sat in stunned silence. She asked me what I was thinking. After a minute I said, “Amy that is the most AWESOME accommodation to a disability that I have ever heard.”
The thing that touched me most was that Amy was so matter of fact about it all.
My mind drifted back to a time when I went to see a play with a friend and her son. As soon as the usher looked at our tickets, he asked me if I could transfer out of my wheelchair and into a seat. Because the seats in the theater did not have armrests, I knew I wouldn’t be able to balance well, and therefore would not be comfortable for the performance. I told him so. With a slight sigh he went and talked to several other ushers and after several long minutes, they finally found us other seats. The new seats were fine, although I couldn’t see the stage very well. I know this employee did his best, and I am not faulting him at all that there were not many spaces in the theater that were completely accessible. It is just that in that scenario, I came away feeling a bit like I was a problem. Sadly, that is not as uncommon as I would like.
And yet here was this woman who I already admire so much, telling me the ways she planned to alter a typical wedding ceremony for her groom simply because she loved him.
All I can say is “Wow!”
The other thing that impressed me that Amy met Jordan a few years after his accident. She did not let his disability get in the way of getting to know him or getting close to him. Since I have never known anything different than living with my disability, I grew up believing that some symptoms that I deal with make me unattractive in various ways, and sometimes create distance between me and other people.
Amy didn’t let that happen between her and Jordan. I know their kind of love is rare, but it also gives me hope and makes me believe that kind of love is possible. For me, it is a tangible example that there are people in the world who are completely willing to get to know me as a person and see my disability as secondary.
“Jordan’s disabilities are such a small part of who he is as a person, that even though they can be rather invasive and challenging at times, I find that it is almost second nature to accommodate and adjust accordingly.” Amy said, “We have worked through so many obstacles together, which has bonded us in a way I have never experienced before. This bond drives me to be the best I can be for him and him for me. It is not always easy but it is always worth it.”
Whenever I get to the point in my life that I have a significant other, (Notice I said “when” not “if,” I am choosing to be optimistic) I can only hope that he is wonderful enough to accept me exactly where I am, and we have the kind of love and commitment that Jordan and Amy do; and like Amy has chosen, he can look at my life and care about me so much that it becomes “almost second nature to accommodate and adjust accordingly.”
That would make me very lucky indeed.
When I think about it now, all I can say is “Wow!”