A few years ago, when I still felt like I could travel, and when Clark was in kindergarten, I took him on a trip for spring break to Washington D.C. where we visited my sister. The entire city was beautiful. Spring was in full command of the weather. Among the things we particularly enjoyed were the large planting of tulips.
Near the White House, close to the National Mall, there was a large patch of tulips in the shape of the numeral one. They were all red. They represented the First Infantry Division of the U.S. Army. Its nickname is "The Big Red One.
Saturday is World Parkinson's Day. The anniversary of the birth of the doctor who first wrote the official description of Parkinson's disease and formally published it. A red tulip was named for Dr. Parkinson.
When I took Clark on that trip, I had Parkinson's but it was so mild back then that I could look at a field of red tulips and not think of Parkinson's at all.
Clark has always had a different perspective on the world. He looked at that big field of tulips and focused on the smallest, most misshapen plant and named it and visited with it awhile when we entered the area AND WHEN WE LEFT.
Now Clark is much older. It has been ten years since I learned I have Parkinson's disease. Parkinson's has moved from the back of my mind to the front.
I recently listened to an interview between Krista Tippett and Bruce Kramer on On Being. Bruce Kramer had ALS (also known as motor neuron disease, or Lou Gehrig's disease) for about five years before he died last month. He said that when we are able-bodied, we often give people who are visibly disabled "the look." He said this look is filled with the feeling of "I could look right through disability and I wouldn't have to face its possibility in the people I'd look through." Bruce Kramer says often attribute disabilities to "the reason I'm not disabled is I didn't do whatever it was."
Of course he had not done a thing. No one with ALS or Parkinson's has done anything to cause or deserve their condition.
Maybe this is what Clark was seeing in that littlest flower. May we all take a moment to really see someone who is living with a disability, not just look through them. Take a moment to get past your discomfort and listen to their story.