The wonderful Toni Bernhard posted a list recently of films she likes that depict disability. I’ve seen most of the movies she shared but the one which impacted me the most was a film called My Left Foot which tells the true story of a man born with extreme cerebral palsy, whose ability to communicate was severely impaired and who could only move his left foot.
The thing that resonates with me most about this film is that Christy is a real human being. Really real. He swears, he drinks and he’s interested in sex. He shouts and tells his Carers to “fuck off!”. A lot. He is not grateful, he is not spiritual………..he is human. He gets frustrated, and pissed off, and bored, and lonely, and angry just like the rest of us. He is not gentle, or sweet, or saintly. He’s complex, passionate and at times really mischievous. And I like him!
Why is it we think disabled or sick people shouldn’t have any negative emotions? That we should be eternally grateful for everything that’s done for us, never get frustrated, never complain and never shout at those we love? I was obviously playing truant the day God gave out halos the same time he gave out diseases.
The same is true of the elderly – the second they reach 65 older people are supposed to turn into sweet old Grannies and Grandpas who sit on rockers on the porch all day smiling angelically at passers-by. This memo has not reached my Mum, who can swear like a navvy and be really cantankerous. She also likes her daily glass of vodka (bugger the fact she’s on 16 pills a day and shouldn’t be touching alcohol), gets irritated that we’re all trying to help her and wishes we’d sod off and give her some peace and quiet every now and again! She’d only been home 24 hours before her and my Dad fell out (she was grumpy because she was exhausted and ill, he was grumpy because he’s exhausted and stressed) and I had to intervene to calm them both down by sending my Dad out to walk my dog (he’s an outdoors enthusiast) and packing my Mum off to bed for a nap 😉 .
The thing about Christy Brown is that it was his very passion, his irascibility, his raging-against-injustice nature that gave him the fire to become an acclaimed writer, painter and poet using nothing but his left foot. It is often those who are, on the surface, prickly and stubborn and “difficult” who go on to achieve great things despite overwhelming odds and leave a legacy to the world which survives long after their death.