Thursday, July 28, 2011


She’s severely intellectually disabled. Every day she wanders about the centre clutching bangles and the lid of a jar into which she’s placed wooden beads, red, green, brown, blue. She drops them frequently, and comes to you to retrieve them from under the cupboard or somewhere she can’t access. Voluntarily, or not, I don’t know, she constantly shakes her right hand, holding a bangle, as you would a tambourine. In her profile folder, it cites food and drink as her interests. Should you leave your lunch lying around, as I did one day, it’ll be gone in an instant. She's non-verbal and I find it excruciatingly difficult and excruciatingly sad knowing how to engage her. There’s lots of clients like her. When she’s happy, generally after a good lunch, she’ll produce a kind of maniacal laughter. The first time it happened I was a bit scared, wondered what was going on. Now that I know there’s a lightness of being inside, I rejoice with her. Up until today, there’s been no reason to consider her sadness. Mostly there’s enough of your own going on to spend too much time thinking about anybody else’s. She was sitting out in the sun with her back to me when I went up to her to try and encourage her to come inside and participate in the music session. As I squatted down, I noticed tears gently falling down her pink cheeks, her nose running. I took her hand, and said the first thing that came into my mind. “Are you sad T?”. Stupid, I know, it was obvious, what did I expect, an answer? I offered some comforting words, went and got the tissues and returned to her side. A couple of times as I dabbed her eyes and nose, she seized my hand in hers and held it tightly to her face. I was overcome with feelings of tenderness for her. Now, some hours later, I’m reflecting on the cruelty and the tragedy and the pathos. Most of us can choose the path of our sadness - speak it, write it, dance it, take it to bed. Not here!