Sunday, April 7, 2013

Memories of Thornhell

Yesterday at the market I didn't make much money, but two conversations with customers affected me greatly.

There was this woman from Ottawa who was visiting her daughter who lived in Toronto.  Both women enthused about my art and ordered a glicee from me.  The mother said that she had heard my radio interview on DNTO and had been anxious to meet me.

I was very gratified to know that my words had affected her so much that she felt she had to meet me.  When she told me that she also read my blog and enjoyed doing so, that made me feel good too.

She said she was sorry to hear about my husband Rob and she understood because her husband had died 14 years ago. And I told her my Dad had died 14 years ago. Oh and of course I brought up the fact that my Mom had just died 8 months ago as well.

All of this talk of loved ones passing away gave me the feelings of both sadness and extreme anxiety I wanted to run away and cry but instead I held myself together and smiled and acted as pleasent as I could. That's good! It's a step in the right direction.

I got a surprising from a woman named Cindy who was with her partner and 8 week old baby. Rob and I used to babysit her and her sister and brother 23 years ago in Thornhill ... or, as Rob used to say Thornhell.

Babysitting those kids and being close friends with their parents was one of the bright spots during those 8 years of hell in Thornhill. You see, I lived in an apartment with personal support from attendants, some who were great but some who were abusive. That was really hard for me to deal with because it was the first time I had ever lived on my own. 

Not only did I have to deal with bad attendants but the building administration began hassling me because in that building, which was just a regular apartment building, tenants were allowed to have guests over only one night week. It seemed ridiculous to me then and it still seems absolutely ridiculous to me now! What was I? Nine years old?

Rob lived in Mississauga with his mother and we he visited he wouldn't want to go home the next day. We were young, in love and horny! Plus, because of the trouble with the attendants, Rob acted as a buffer between them and me.

Because I had heard that ODSP would have cut my pension in half if I had a partner live with me I was so afraid let Rob move in. So at first Rob moved in with Cindy and her siblings and her parents. Their house was just a few blocks away from my place. As you can imagine, this still didn't work because Rob just wanted to be with me and rarely went home. And then he moved in with a guy named Bob who worked as a clown and sold Amway on the side. Bob was a real nice guy! When Rob was still staying at my place more than going home, Bob said no problem, as long as you pay me rent, you can have a mailing address to show the building management.

The building management was so extreme in its persecution of me, they asked me weekly if Rob was living with me. They accused me of lying when I told them that Rob went to his place every night and they threatened to call ODSP on me. I was literally scared to death but held my ground and said "Ok, where's your proof?" But besides feeling scared, I also felt furious!Where was their compassion and empathy? I just wanted to live quietly with the man I love. I mean, what non-disabled couple would ever face such harassment?

At one point I guess my fury overtook my fear and I said to Rob" I love you and you love me, let's get out of this hellhole and find a place of our own and let the chips fall where they may." Maybe Toronto would have more relaxed regulations about people living together. We could only try, couldn't we?

It was the best decision we ever made! Instead of cutting my pension ODSP raised it for both Rob and I to live on. It was still peanuts but better than what I had expected. Honestly, I think we were very fortunate because I have heard of many, many couples having their pensions cut in half if they move in together. My theory was that the social worker at ODSP took one look at both Rob and I and came to the conclusion that Rob would be more like a "caregiver" than a mate. I sure wasn't going to argue though! Sometimes ableism works in my favour!

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