The Movie is Here in Thunder Bay. Don't Miss it.

The Movie is Here  in Thunder Bay. Don't Miss it.
Indian Horse, the movie based on the book by Richard Wagamese

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Creative non-fiction by Joy Asham

Clear the streets! Hide your children! I just got a shiny red scooter. This is good news for me, but for you it might mean disaster. Actually it has meant a bit of that to me, too. I never realized I was a bad driver until …

Let’s start at the beginning. Almost three years ago now my touchy back problems became acute and I suffered for a long time with three disintegrated discs. Once the pain finally lessened a year later, I was left with extreme weakness and have forever lost much of the flexibility required to walk and operate normally.

On good days I use a cane to walk, on worse days a walker and then, sometimes, I just have to stay put as my bad back has undermined many areas of my overall health. I cannot leave my building without getting a ride or taking a cab so I have lost my independence. This has been a severe blow. Giving up working was very hard: I am, well, a busybody. And, I like to snoop.

I don’t snoop in the usual way. I don’t observe my neighbours with binoculars, I don’t tag their comings and goings and speculate on their lives. I even try not to make judgments or listen to or pass on gossip. I have been known to do this once or twice, especially if it’s a juicy tidbit, though. My snooping is generally restricted to community matters and whether things are working the way they should or not. In terms of personal lives I try to mind my own business while I live in a world that seems overly interested in mine.

Oh yes, that is a bit of a digression but I do live in a building that at one time was for seniors but is now blended – people with disabilities, Elders, seniors (yes, there is a difference). What was once almost mono-cultural is now becoming more reflective of Thunder Bay’s true population demographics as Aboriginal people, immigrants and minority groups infiltrate social housing.

I have used the word “infiltrate” because at times that is the attitude that we are presented with. We are not wanted, persona non grata. We are tagged as “the locals” and nice little blue-haired old ladies guard the gateway, or at least, the common room. I differentiated in the previous paragraph between a senior and an Elder. I was taught from the time I was born to respect my elders and have always done so. But I have grown to define Elder as someone who requires my respect because they are older than me, but have earned it by the growth you can see in their spirit, regardless of what hard times they have been through.

I guess I believe that anyone can live to be old if they don’t have challenges, but it is how one deals with a rough life that tells their true internal qualities. Here where I live I have seen people with relatively smooth lives become bitter at not having more, turning to gambling and gossiping and internal political control. And then there are the Elders, regardless of race or background, they have learned to overcome problems with the Spirit and have grown and gained Grace because of it. These are the ones I truly respect, enjoy, spend time with and support, whenever I get the chance. I also look for this kind of relationship outside my building - I am a busybody as I said.
So, I volunteer out in the community whenever I can. I join committees, visit the sick, do weird political things, I even used to sing in the seniors’ choir (they fired me as I lost my songbook, so I don’t do that anymore) – generally getting in trouble and carrying a cloud of Pigpen dust with me wherever I go.

This all stopped when my back misfired. I had to stay home. At times I could only lay on the bed and count the speckles on the ceiling. Once a month I would drag myself around in cabs to get groceries and do the necessities. I spent a lot of time with a lot of different health professionals and I can stand and walk across the room.

I just got this scooter. It was supposed to be here late in the summer, but, like everything else in my life it took three times longer than it was supposed to. So when I fell in October they put a “rush” on it and it finally got here a week before Christmas. “Ahah!” I said, “now I put the racing stripes on it and I can start busybodying all over the city. Just drive it on the bus and there you go.”

Well, the elevator is the first place I got it trapped, then on the Mainline. A Memorial bus driver or two got truly ticked off when I got it on but couldn’t get it off their buses. I got ticked off when it turned over in the bus with me on it. The other passengers weren’t pleased either when they missed their late night transfer because of me. I have made a few small re-designs in the otherwise pristine paint and have gotten it stuck in a snowbank near the Hakim’s mini-mall. A man about 95 years old stopped his car and dragged me out, not able to pass by “a lady in distress”. Thank you, sir.

I figure by Spring I am going to be an expert. I will be able to turn the thing on a dime. Then I will definitely be back in the busybody business. Meanwhile I have been told by the last bus driver: “Go down to our garage by Hagi – don’t use another bus. At the garage they will let you practice getting off and on in your scooter till you can get it right.”

I’m not quite sure why I feel so offended by this. Certainly I have heard much worse about myself. Right here at home.

Joy Aham is a Cree storymaker and storyteller as well as community activist

No comments:

Post a Comment