Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Disability Rag...

...or, "whaddya mean there's a serious side to this blog?"

I've created a page ----> Wheels & crutches & canes, oh my..why I started all of this<---- discussing in depth my interest in Lionel Barrymore's post-1938 (i.e., post-wheelchair) work, wherein I break down the first Kildare/Gillespie film with Barrymore and Lew Ayres, Young Dr. Kildare, 1938.  I am actually quite engaged in researching LB's post-1938 films for their practical presentation of disabled reality, at least in terms of wheelchair use.  It's not really super complicated, but I am a serious researcher and I like to present things as closely to the known facts as possible. I was so trained and it's my natural inclination.  Casual tossing out of "facts" bug the crap out of me, but I can see how other blogs or articles or even books might just burn out and not bother with cross-checking what can be. In the age of google and the interwebs, it's almost criminal to present loosely-sourced stuff. Call a rumor a rumor and don't waste my time :)

But I digress! I am a great admirer of LB's skill AND of his coping with a terribly painful physical ordeal. I am calling the major issue he had aggressive rheumatoid arthritis complicated by bone injuries, based not only on observations of him in films, but also on clippings of his involvement with arthritis research.  Yes, he had other issues--several people mention he broke various bones (hip, leg, knee, etc) in his life which caused complications, and LB himself claimed to have broken the same hip twice. It's certain he used a very uncomfortable leather brace to work in at least one film that kept his hip properly in place, and he mentions pain and discomfort in letters he wrote and comments made to friends.   He worked through some awful, awful pain in his life, and he was cranky, sharp, bitter, and probably lonely many times. Chronic illness is a serious, serious pain in the ass.**

But why my interest? Why? Obviously, the man is a super-skilled actor, and I love watching his films. But since I have a frustrating, incurable pain-in-the-ass illness myself and have since I was at least 34 or so (I'm going to be 46 this year), I am fascinated by how well he chugged on and worked. Granted, I feel his frustrated assertion he had to keep working to stave off the tax man, but I feel also his determination to do what he wanted in spite of the near-constant pain.  Read the page to find out what my particular problem is, but let's just say here I'm probably a worse patient than LB claimed to be when it came to dealing with the minutiae of illness, and that's saying a lot, apparently!

I started this whole blog because my admiration for LB is so great that I thought he deserved a space of his own for me to look at his life, his films, his advocacy (quieter than one might expect), and his stubborn resilience. I appreciate it a whole lot, more in recent months after my own relapse left me limping like a drunken sailor and scrambling for mnemonics to remember things. I have similar bitter humor and super-resilience--but to be so public a persona with chronic illness that is not remotely sexy? I'm not sure about that, even though I used a cane and gimped about for a year and a half as a professor of English before I ended up in the emergency room and then a neurological suite--where I graded my students' final papers in between scans, bloodwork, and surgery. I credit my own students' resiliency in that they had zero pity for me after class one each semester, and instead just took me as I was, sometimes overtired, sometimes forgetful.

In short--neither LB nor I ever, ever intended to be a role model, a hero, or some "super-disabled" person. I declare butterflies and inane slogans anathema--not for me "I might have MS but it doesn't have me!" because you know what? It DOES. It WILL. All I can do generally is fend it off and plan on modifying a wheelchair in the future to have spiked hubs.

Do check it out if you've interest in my motivation for this blog. I promise it's not very angry and is pretty well illustrated, unlike this post! And thanks, honestly.

John Callahan, quadriplegic cartoonist and wicked wit

**Y'all need to hear me on this and believe me when I say it. PAIN IN THE ASS.

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