William Carlos Williams famously wrote:
Of asphodel, that greeny flower,
like a buttercup
upon its branching stem–
save that it’s green and wooden–
I come, my sweet,
to sing to you.
By the time Bill Williams wrote the lines above he had been affected and considerably by a stroke that made it difficult for him to talk or to hold a pen. The lines reflect the urgency of his condition and the poem, a love poem to his wife Flossie, is filled, if you will, with flowers that arrive on the page with the abiding love that has grown and been steepened in times of physical duress and fading memories.
I was thinking of Dr. Williams today because we are living in a time of keen cynicism about the life of our nation. Such abstracted and despairing feelings come when people are drawn away from close observation of the living world around them. The very medium of television has contributed the most deleterious effects in this area and plenty of words have been cast upon the waters of that argument so I won’t carry on about it.
But Williams, old and dying, wrote a farewell poem to his wife and said that when she came into his life:
your dear self,
mortal as I was,
the lily’s throat
to the hummingbird!
By Jove, old Bill Williams! That’s the stuff!
Upon meeting his wife Williams said: the whole world became my garden…
My wife Connie’s birthday is coming up and I hope to give her the new hummingbirds and lilies and some strawberries too.
If I write poetry for another thirty years I still won’t write a poem as great as old Doc Williams but I will be steadfast with joined hands.
Let us henceforth look to the greeny flowers…
Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking to the South Carolina statewide Vision conference: an event hosted by a consortium of programs and agencies that serve the blind and the deaf in South Carolina. I was asked to talk on the subject of "self-advocacy" for kids with disabilities. Although my remarks were delivered extemporaneously I thought I might share with the blogosphere one portion of my talk since I suspect that my memory serves me after 24 hours with a modicum of accuracy.
"When I think about the subject of "self-advocacy" for people with disabilities I am reminded of an anecdote from Ronald Reagan’s presidency. I like Ronald Reagan’s sense of humor and his capacity to get to the heart of the matter. On this occasion President Regan was hosting for the first time Britain’s Prince Charles in the Oval Office at the White House. They talked for about 45 minutes about world affairs, about Margaret Thatcher’s leadership, about Gorbachev and the Soviet Union. Then, all of a sudden, Ronald Reagan looked at Prince Charles and said: "Well, Prince Charles, I notice you haven’t had any of your tea. I thought you fellows liked tea?" Prince Charles revealed that he’d never seen a tea bag before, and since he didn’t know what to do with it he thought it best to avoid his teacup altogether.
I like this story because it offers an example about the perils of not having self advocacy skills. You see, in that situation Prince Charles had a kind of disability: he needed that cup of tea and he didn’t know how to ask for help. This is an example of how the failure of language skills can create a disability where otherwise no disability would exist. And because Prince Charles didn’t know how to ask for help he had to face a late afternoon without his "cuppa" and as everyone knows, that in turn must have made the Prince grouchy. So he probably snapped at one of his aids. He most likely said something unkind at an embassy reception later that evening. And all this because no one ever taught him how to ask a basic question. It turns out that everyone needs to have "self-advocacy" skills, and not just people with disabilities. I also think a better term for "self-advocacy" is "emotional intelligence"–the term that was made popular by Daniel Goleman a few years back…"
Poor Prince Charles. Because he didn’t know how to handle his tea bag he had a lousy evening. I even suspect he was short tempered with the Princess. You see, it’s the small things that sometimes really matter.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote Have Autism, Will Travel, a post about Monica Moshenko, host of Disability News and Views Radio Network, and her son, Alex and their plans to sell their house and hit the road in an RV.
"The goal is to meet and greet people with disabilities,
raise the public’s awareness about the disabled — and perhaps catch a
few wrestling matches along the way."
Monica wrote the other day to tell us that her house is now on the market. (Looking for a house in upstate New York by any chance?) She and Alex seem very excited about their planned adventure. I’m excited for them. More about their planned road trip here… Hmmm. I see no stop planned for Columbus, OH. I wonder what we can do about that?
As I mentioned in my previous post, thirteen year old Alex has a radio show of his own "Al’s
Wrestling Talk," which airs live on the Internet every Saturday night. Alex has a passion for wrestling and has, in fact, recently been selected as the spokesman for new fundraising event, Wrestling Autism, a "campaign to raise awareness and funds for research for the thousands of children
with autism in our country today – over 1.5 million." According to his mother:
"Alex is no stranger to raising
awareness for autism as he has been a voice for others with autism since he was
six years old telling kids to find their gifts and talents for years. Alex has
been on TV, radio and interviewed for articles many times always sharing the
positives that kids with Autism have to embrace. Now my son is involved in
another mission to raise awareness for autism called Wrestling Autism. Alex has
been a huge wrestling fan (so is Jim Carrey)! Alex started hosting his own radio
show online about wrestling last year. Since that time his audience has grown
and especially recently because Alex has been selected to be the face/voice of
Wrestling Autism – to raise awareness for autism. My son is thrilled to be
selected to be the voice for Wrestling Autism and hopes to inspire other kids
and adults to get involved !!"
* For some reason I can’t get two of the links above to work properly. Here they are:
Alex, we look forward to keeping tabs on you and your Mom as you travel about the United States!