Can We Build Relationships Outside the World of Disability?

I have recently reconnected with some old friends from high school and college thanks to the modern miracle of the Internet. It’s always a thrill to get reacquainted with people who I shared so many important experiences. But, as we start to share about our lives I am always struck by the same realization…my life is so incredibly different and complicated and it can take the shine off the excitement.

I have a feeling this is something many families like mine experience. Our lives are so unique and our challenges so great that we begin to rebuild our friendships and networks with families facing similar circumstances. It’s just easier and practical. I mean, it’s inevitable that one of the first things to come up with old acquaintances is the desire to get together…to meet each other’s children, families, spouses. This is always a tough spot. At what point do you inquire about the accessibility of their homes? Do you have a ramp? Can a wheelchair access your backyard? Ugh…I just hate that. It makes me feel like an alien.

So, it is my fault that I have allowed many relationships to fade away. It’s just too much to deal with…explaining Q and her needs, explaining it to their children, trying to haul a wheelchair into their beautiful homes, trying not to muck up their carpets, finding a space where she can be changed….on it goes. It’s too much stress and I start to become distant and non-committal. Eventually we just become those people who simply exchange the annual Christmas card.

On the other hand, I have some of the most incredible friends…people who are passionate, caring, and loyal. Some don’t have children with special needs, but they accept my family and my life with such grace. They ask the right questions, offer the right help…if they invite us into their homes they make sure that everything is in place for Quincy, not as an afterthought but because they know it eliminates a great deal of stress for me. For them it is not a hassle or an inconvenience, it’s just what they do for me. And what they do not know, they ask. My friends are brave enough to ask me a lot of questions. They understand and respect that I am private, perhaps to a fault, but have taught me that sharing can be a good thing. I have decided that having a handful of friends like these makes up for a lifetime of possible friendships that I have allowed to fade.

I will continue to venture slowly and cautiously into relationships with new people. I have learned that you never really know what challenges others face. I have met old friends who are struggling to raise children with autism, others who have joined the cause for safer vaccines, others who have lost children. So, I do not judge…I just proceed slowly. And, if the feeling of being an alien begins to fade then I know it’s the beginning of something I can build on.

Published on: March 12, 2009
About the Author
Photo of Tawny Buck

Tawny has a BA in Business and Secondary Education from Eastern Washington University. In addition to writing, Tawny is also a national advocate for vaccine safety.

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