Tag Archives: solidarity

Le #printemps2015 arrive. There are new massive protests planned for Quebec this spring, in the tradition of the student protests of 2012. (See kind of funny photo above)

This
is exciting for me, and also concerns me. I love the idea of people
young and old, mobilizing against austerity, and sticking it to the
decision makers. God knows almost nothing turns me on more than a
demonstration in the street by the light of the springtime Quebec moon. I
said almost. I’m more than just political in my preferences, you know that.

However, like this young, normalized, white hand proudly proclaiming it’s rightful place in a mass social movement in Quebec; against austerity, against selfishness masked as an economic system, proudly aligning itself for community, marching really fast and rambunctiously down the middle of the street, it doesn’t represent all the people in the movement, nor the people most affected by austerity. 

My comrade Laurence Parent tells it like it is in this article recounting when a healthcare professional recommended she eats frozen microwave dinners 365 days a year to accommodate cuts in her province- funded homecare services, that had previously provided funds for meal preparation, like for actual food. http://quebec.huffingtonpost.ca/laurence-parent/repas-surgeles-a-saveur-dausterite_b_6778700.html

Now that’s something to say Esti! to. (Esti = Quebec version of Fuck)

Or the story that recently came out in the Journal de Montreal, about long time disability rights activist, Deborah Kennard, who is not being released from hospital to go back home after a stay, because the residence where she lives will not agree to pay for nursing care to meet her healthcare needs. http://www.journaldemontreal.com/2015/03/14/confinee-a-lhopital-en-attendant-une-decision-administrative An administrative loophole has turned her into a prisoner of the hospital. Austerity has extended that sentence.

I’d get out on the street to protest that shit.

But I’m not sure if the young, healthy, only-been-in-the-hospital-for-a-broken-arm-at-age-6 fist in the above photo is aware of these realities. I’m not sure if they know that parents with young children who need physiotherapy and speech therapy at an early age to assure their positive future, have the role of physical therapist being thrust on them due to budget cuts in the CLSCs (community health organizations), as if a parent who is exhausted and working full-time can moonlight as a top quality physio therapist as well, to compensate for a failing economic system.

I will hear chants about students’ tuition and a lack of jobs for young generations this spring, but will I hear the tens of thousands of people expected to take to the streets yelling about homecare cuts, and being allowed off the bus with a ramp, like I am so often refused http://montreal.ctvnews.ca/conflict-ramps-up-walker-reliant-rider-complains-driver-left-her-stranded-1.2258406, and having access to the accessibility devices that suit them best, not just those provided by the province’s favourite company? I don’t know.

Will they protest the age-old, and personally consuming excuse that ‘we can’t accessibilize transit in Montreal, because… austerity.’ As though the decision makers on the board of the STM are not at all responsible for mis-spending and complicity in the failure of past accessibility projects like the elevator to nowhere in the Place Bonaventure metro station (subway system in Montreal). http://www.radio-canada.ca/regions/Montreal/2015/03/02/004-ascenseur-station-bonaventure-metro-montreal-accessibilite.shtml, or could not, while doing other repairs and closing down Beaubien station for an indefinite amount of time, also work on installing a damn elevator. But no, that would cost too much. Because… austerity.

This is not just a rant.

I sincerely hope that when that fist and the throngs of people that join it take to the streets this spring, accessibility will be on people’s radar. That when people yell about austerity and resist the police who will inevitably come to silence them, they will be doing so for people who are not there at the demo, not just themselves. That they fight for people who are stuck in the damn hospital waiting to get their lives back on track, waiting to do their life’s work of activism again, if only they weren’t being hospitalized, forcibly.

I hope that when the young folks take to the streets they yell extra loud for the folks who got fucked by transit on the way over to the square, showing up late to the demo or just giving up and heading home.

I hope that they pay attention to their surroundings and don’t kick canes out from under people’s hands like they did in 2012 to me, as I struggled up that very same hill on Berri street (pictured, weirdly, above). I wrote about that experience here: http://aimeelouw.blogspot.ca/2012/07/a-qui-la-rue.html I hope that they read our posts, share our perspectives and enact the community that they are advocating, on the streets, on transit, and in their everyday interactions. Because austerity for many, is a constricting force on our daily lives. It squeezes and pushes and there is no way out. Unless everyone gets on board and starts yelling and tweeting and writing and recording and works our collective magic, to make sure austerity is the thing that gets squeezed out this #printemps2015 (spring2015).

My little, kind of cold, also white, arthritic hand says to the fist above: take me in your hand, and let’s join a million other hands of all forms and colours with all the real, daily concerns they have written on their palms, and let’s do this thing together. Open that fist and leave space for all of us who are being harmed by the decisions that lead to austerity and the decisions that are made in austerity’s name. Lower your hand and follow our leads. 

One Year.

I’m not that good at remembering numbers. Except birthdays of the people I love and old addresses. But today I found myself rolling around in Parc Lafontaine waiting for open hours at the pool. I started off on my regular path, by the water, watching the sun set, then I found myself going farther, past the volleyball and picnic tables. Past the shady parts with the tall trees, past the open field, back to Sherbrooke street, in front of the Notre Dame Hospital. I noticed the west entrance was blocked off and being renovated. I noticed a lot of people in pale blue hospital gowns in wheelchairs smoking with their families and I wondered if they were jealous of the speed of my scooter. My mind wandered to thinking about how much better it is than those hospital chairs and how it wasn’t that long ago since I was in one, and then it hit me: its been a year to the day that I broke my femur. How the hell could I forget that?

A year ago this morning, I went from running around my apartment getting ready to rush out the door for my last day of a job, to lying in a puddle of half-drank cat water in my underpants, water seeping into my menstrual pad. I went from calling for my neighbours to help me, to crawling on my back to reach my phone and calling various people until I reached my brother and Hannah and they convinced me to call 991. It’s been exactly one year since I was being carried down my two flights of stairs on a rickety stretcher by two first responders who I worried might have a cardiac arrest before we made it down. My leg was in a temporary cast made of recycled cardboard, swelling to widths I’ve never seen. One year since Hannah and I had fro-yo in the emergency room, the nurse unable to take that sweet contraband away from me. You’re not supposed to eat anything until they know for sure that you’re not going to need surgery. Its 11:00pm, about the time a year ago that I was parked in the dep* parking lot across from my apartment in Pascale’s mother’s car as my brother made neighbour arrangements for my cat and packed a few week’s worth of underwear and any dresses I had and grabbed the bananas I told him about on my table because I didn’t want them to go bad.

One year.

Of hospital visits, of language barriers, of waiting rooms, of pain medication schedules and brother-provided gluten-free beers to help the codeine kick in. Time spent in the oldest and heaviest wheelchair you can imagine, bathroom breaks timed out, crying on the couch because the woman wasn’t going to come in the morning and I didn’t know how I would pee, trying female urinals, failing at female urinals. A year of relying on family members and friends who gave new meaning to the word: solid. A vow never to flake-out on people again and a year trying to put that into practice.

One year full of physio, getting boss in a wheelchair, getting rejected by bus drivers, learning that little steps are the biggest, learning that one step into a building may as well be a million. Being told about the importance of walking, of exercising, of keeping my weight down, of taking pills everyday; being told I need to get back to normal, get on with my life, stop spending my mornings at physio.

A year full of regret and missing my old apartment, that I would sometimes jealously peep into if I went to the dep and it was dark out and the lights up there were on. A year full of fighting my shrinking self-confidence and resisting microaggressions and bullshit from people on sidewalks and hiring committees. A year of looking for that spot where my identity is formed, and trying to spread it around a bit; make it less dependent on walking. A year of doing everything in my power to get up and walking again and then building a more fitting vision of how to get around, as I’ve come to understand that walking too much is not good for me. And too much is not a fixed amount. A year of building-up muscles and the strength to fight for myself, when in the past I didn’t feel authorized to. Time spent in the pool rediscovering my love of water and discovering a new love with J.

One year of wearing crocs at all times.

Well I didn’t know what to think about it. I didn’t know how to feel when I finally remembered. So I rolled over to the bench across the street from Notre Dame where I had sat with Deon, Pascale, Mum, and Joe after an x-ray check-up. It was the time before the doctor told me the bone had healed, but it had been doing well. A year ago we sat there, I craving sushi, my mother craving answers in a language she could understand, my brother craving country air, Pascale craving to get on the highway already, and Joe probably craving a cigarette or the feeling of nothingness in his mind that he was accustomed to. Today I sat there in my scooter thinking, god: a year ago I had no idea what was in store, what kind of weird shitstorm I was going to be at the eye of along with many other Montrealers; what discriminatory underbelly of the city I was going to be exposed to. I had no idea I would be living the ‘don’t get mad get political’ mantra every time I left my freaking apartment.

Five weeks less than a year ago I sat at that bench in a relationship that was no good for me, with the idea that after this bone healed everything would go back to the way it was before: painful, exhausting, bull-headed, metro-taking normalcy. I had needed the changes this accident forced on me long before that day.

And half a year ago during rehab I had no control over how I got places. I just sat there, waiting. Sometimes for a ride or energy to walk that never came.

Today I sat there, hearing the howl of a husky dog and of skateboards taking quick turns and I thought about the people who have helped me out in so many ways.

Mum, Jo, Lyssa, Hania, Rosie, De and Pascale, they all stayed with me, making sure I had anything I needed or wanted. They fed me and watered me, and made me laugh and hung out with me when I was grumpy.

De busted me out of the hospital that first night, convinced that the country air would be much better for me than the stale adult wing of the hospital, complete with a barfing guy across the hall. He barbequed hardcore pork for dinner almost every night; claiming that the calcium from the meat being cooked on the bone would help me heal. I believed it.

My mum flew across the country to help out in any way she could, spending the majority of my leg-straight-in-a-splint-don’t-move-it-can’t-move-it time. This was a challenging time and she strengthened by example, never letting up on the care I needed, just like she never did when I was younger, in and out of doctors’ offices, blood tests and brace fittings. She lifted, supported, fed me, fed my friends, gave me flowers when we found out the bone was healed, and bought me a badass pleather jacket to replace the one that was fraying. I swear she always knows what size to get.

De and Pas were both my primary caregivers for weeks. They took care of everything. I don’t even know half of what they did because I was hopped up on many opiates. But their kindness and solidarity got me through seriously challenging times, and their laughs and focus on daily dinners and playing songs and getting outside in the sun taught me the relief there is in daily activities with people you love.

My dad came to Quebec for the first time since the ‘70s to take care of me too, bringing Afrikaans cured meats and supplements. He pushed me around the streets, and surprised by how friendly all the gentlemen were in Montreal (in the village;)

Pascale’s mother hosted me and various family members for many weeks, feeding us and being patient.

Rosie spent her only week off over a two year period taking care of me, pushing my chair through the gnarled and rocky streets of Saint Henri.

Naike took me to a righteous Haitian voodoo concert and took me camping. Lucy blocked traffic on Atwater street, lent me pillows and an espresso machine for far too long, offered to stay with me, and kept my spirits up over shared spirits.

Nat took a surprise trip into town for brunch.

Lyssa clipped my toenails one day on that raunchy green couch, and it was the sweetest.

Brennan and Jesse came to visit, brought the kids, even with the business that having two young ones and busy lives brings.

Nic and Steph rode their bikes over to me at like 8 am to help me in the washroom, on several occasions, lifting me like it was nothing. And Steph lent me a bizarre games to play to keep my mind occupied. She made me a friendship bracelet that is still wrapped around my leg. And she laughed her ass off when she saw the photo of my croc in the metro reminding me its good to laugh at absurd situations.

Pauly helped me arrange much needed personal care, and scored me an amazing wheelchair through his contacts with all the right people.

Gifty came over to visit and develop a special bond with Klava the cat.

Julie came over to help me take evening pees, hung out with my dad, and brought her guitar. She and I sang songs even when I thought I really didn’t have it in me to sing. And it always made me feel better.

And about a million other people sent me thoughtful messages, called me up to see how I was doing, and offered support.

I want to say thank you to everyone who helped and supported me as my leg healed and to everyone who’s been there for me since, showing me alternatives to a rather oppressive social emphasis on walking, supporting my battles with the STM, coming together over politics and drinks. Travelling with me on the road to acceptance and defiance (of my body and the city, respectively).

You are awesome, like a big storm rolling in except its not destructive its protective.

As I sip celebratory red wine and express these personal thoughts for anyone who will read them I think about the challenges we’ve overcome together, and the challenges and uncertainty I’m still facing. Yes it’s been one hell of a year. Yes, I’m still standing. Yes I have a ride so I can sit. My bone healed and is stronger because of the break, and I’ll tell you, so am I.

Cheers mutherfuckers!image

image

*dépaneur: a Quebec way of saying corner store. With liquor.

**Names:

Mom, Jo – parents

Lyssa, Deon, Brennan, Jesse, Pascale – siblings and sisters in law

Joe – an ex

Lady names – friends (my Montreal family)

J – My partner

Take your time my dear, he said, as I struggled to pull the one side of my coat with holes to meet the side with the buttons. I didn’t realize it but the waitors’ hasty movements and hurried closing activities like slamming bar stools on benches upside down, and whipping their ponytails back and forth were making me rush to get out of the hippy cafe bar we found after a long day of travelling from the island to the mainland. There’s this phrase I’ve been saying a lot lately: on se décalice. That’s what I was doing. J was already on his scooter, ready to roll to catch the second-last sky train; we didn’t want to risk going for the last one, and I felt like once again I was making him wait, I was taking too long to do everything. I was feeling rushed and impatient with myself. These are not new feelings nor are they sparse. I have always found myself around faster moving people with quicker paced schedules than I have, and have quite often felt like I’m not measuring up. Like I’m not walking fast enough or working fast enough or eating fast enough or getting out of the bathroom fast enough or changing fast enough after going swimming with childhood friends. I had this thought today as we were having our breakfast in the hotel lobby, after J said I’m almost ready to go because he thought I was anxious to leave, but I was just enjoying my coffee, waiting for the rain to pass, that sometimes I prefer to be alone not because I don’t want company but because I don’t want to have to explain myself or say I’m coming, almost ready. Its simpler to go alone. Easier to follow my own rhythm when I’m the only one playing the song.

The thing about the Underwater City is that its as much about people as it is ramps or wheels or pave-jobs. Its about patience and laughing as you race down the sidewalks, mocking the bi-pedals for being so slow. Its about figuring out how to fit two scooters in an elevator, on a bus, how to hold the door open for each other. Its about J giving me lifts on the ferry to look at the sunset, and me grabbing something from a tight space that would be a pain in the ass for him to drive his scooter into. Not that he wouldn’t be able to do it, or that he would complain at all. Its about asking ça va, when I am clearly upset about something, its about being there for each other and finding a pub to eat and dance in.

Its about the scientist giving the writer space to sit on the pier with my cell phone writing, texting myself new bits, and the writer trying to give the scientist an estimated time of how long it will take to get her idea down on a semi-used napkin in a bar. Its about not wanting anything in return after petting my hair when I am overwhelmed with emotion from the broad uncertainty I’m swimming in, being treated so well in public and seeing the vast blue-greys of sky meeting ocean and mountains.

As we both sat on the seats of the skytrain, our scooters rocking with the turns, patiently waiting to carry us when we arrived at our stop, I said I wished I had more crip friends when I was growing up. Its comfortable and well-paced and not frustrated with me. We’re good to travel together. He gets me coffee when I’m sleepy, I make us pose for pictures. He said its true, quand tu voyage avec les gens bi-peds il comprennent pas quand tu cherche un ascenseur ou que tu prends plus de temps pour s’habiller. They are shocked when elevators aren’t as obviously located as escalators or stairs and don’t seem to understand that sometimes you need to sit there kind of groaning on a ferry seat with your legs spread in the air flashing the seagulls flying on the wind currents outside the boat window to recuperate before you go on. I’m so happy J joined me, took me to Stanley Park, and taught me how to get on the bus in a scooter without loosing my shit. We’re closer with each other now after having travelled to three different cities, across mountain ranges and prairie, across countless rivers and between tiny islands in the pacific ocean. We’re closer and I feel closer to finding the Underwater City. As I’ve jokingly been asking him repeatedly over the course of our travels… are we there yet?