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Thursday, December 18, 2014

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Two stories to start the new year

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Facing the new year requires some amount of determination to be able to begin with a sense of balance, with an ability to merge both the feelings of pessimism and optimism that naturally assail us.

It’s difficult to be positive listening to the news. We’re surrounded by negative happenings. Bad things and crises are the love children of the news media. Add to that our own Jewish communal leadership, which feeds on negative predictions of demographers and sociologists, since they believe these foster closer communal ties and better philanthropic conditions. (I disagree on both counts.)

On the other hand, if one espouses only positive thoughts, we’d be deigned foolish, since reality doesn’t align well with such dreams. Moreover, people don’t exactly enjoy such discussions and tend to avoid alliances.

My husband taught that we should walk in the world with two slips of paper in our pockets. One should state: “For me the world was created.” On the other should be written: “I am but dust and ashes.” With those two concepts carried forward, we might have a chance at harmony in our lives.

I think we need balance, but a special kind, one that leans toward optimism.

Let me tell you two stories. Taking care of a special-needs person has brought me into contact with many aspects of our society and many different types of reactions. I was appalled at the abrupt way we were discharged from the rehabilitation hospital without adequate preparation or guidance. Many things about that time and subsequent neglectful conditions have amazed me. They could have left me angry, and sometimes did. So here come two crazy opposite stories that have, overall, left me smiling and very positive.

We flew to Denver to see my daughter in her new home. My husband was joyous, as the trip went very well until we came home. Air Canada, with its monopoly on direct flights, had lost his wheelchair – twice! It’s breathtaking. They left it on the bridge in Denver as the plane took off. No one there panicked, thinking, “Oh my God! Someone must need this!” No, it was just left there, until we noticed that we couldn’t get off the plane in Montreal. Eventually, hours later, at the delayed luggage counter (lovely euphemism), they found it. It was flown home quickly, but we didn’t receive it, because no one put a tag on it to deliver it to us. So it sat in Trudeau Airport, lost again. Meanwhile, there’s resource to loan us a wheelchair, but it takes 24 hours to get to us. How was I supposed to get my husband home? Don’t ask. It was a terrible experience that will inhibit future trips. Sadly, I’m now afraid to travel, and my husband wants to visit his children.

But here’s a good story. We had a ramp put in for the wheelchair. The CLSC (local community service centre) social worker didn’t feel it was safe enough, especially in the winter. She was correct. She helped me apply to the Quebec government’s Programme D’Adaptation de Domicile. A wonderful agent came to the house and immediately agreed. She put us on her priority list. In every way, our experience with this department was overwhelmingly positive. I spoke English and they helped me in every way, translating any document I couldn’t understand. There was a lot of paperwork. I was helped with it every inch of the way.

The design of the lift was prepared. A list of contractors was sent to me. I chose four to call for estimates. I received responses and chose one because he spoke English. The government representative agreed that was a good reason. The lift is very expensive, but the government paid 4/5 of the cost. Once all the parties agreed and everything was signed, it took four days to install. The men who worked were kind, efficient and capable. When my husband wanted to go out, they carried him and his wheelchair over the steps until the lift was working. It’s completed, and I’m proud of the way this department worked with me to enable my husband easy access to the world outside.

Things can work, even in Quebec, even in English. So I can see a way forward, with a touch of optimistic thinking.

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