My Hip Life
By Joanne O’Connell
(Originally published in On Our Own vol.6)
My sister and I had joined a boys’ swimming club. It was a really enjoyable for me to do on a hot day. My sister and I had taken swim lessons before. She was five and I was ten or eleven. She knew most of the strokes, even how to dive. I didn’t like diving because the metal steps of the ladder hurt my feet. There was this one boy who was always teasing us. It was usually fun and we would talk with this boy. I felt so cool in the water.
One day, he lured my sister into the deep end. I guess she didn’t know how to swim in the deep end, or she got scared. She panicked and started to drown, so I jumped in to save her. That’s when she put her arm around my neck and pulled me under the water. I saved my sister that day, but I drowned.
After the accident, I was in a wheelchair. I had lost the use of my arms and legs as well as my vision. With the help of a physical therapist, I am now able to walk with a stick. My vision has also come back, gradually, but not completely. At first, I could see light, then colors. Now I can see straight ahead.
When I look back, I still get upset. If I had that boy in front of me, I would slap him. I cannot remember how everything happened. It is hard for me to talk to my mother and sister about the accident. I don’t want to bring them down. I know my mom would just start crying. Today, I try not to feel self pity. I try to grow.
My hip life- it mainly involves my job at Gateway Arts, which is for the most part, fun. I practice skills of painting and drawing. The program also gives a strong emphasis to writing. At home, I share a room with my sister. I have three windows to look out of. We have both of our clothing in the same closet, but we don’t have any disputes. I’m more comfortable in a T-shirt and a pair of jeans. She likes to wear dresses. Marie’s really smart and she tell me a lot of the things that happened in her day.
The two most scary experiences I have had recently were with an escalator and a roller coaster. During my first encounter with an escalator, I lost my balance. This real nice guy grabbed me. I had injured my ankle a little, but I had an encounter with a slick guy. The time I rode on a roller coaster, it was during summer break with some friends. I was holding on with two hands, making a desperate attempt not to swallow my gum. It was really scary, but fun. It is important for me to exercise and keep the blood flowing to my brain and through the arteries. I also have a lot of fun with my dog, who sleeps on my bed. I share most of my food with him, even my Mounds bar. I like to take him on walks through the neighborhood.
On occasion, I feel distraught about my “disability” and how it affects my life. What really irks me is when I encounter people with prejudiced attitudes about my appearance. I try to let it ride over my head. If I acted as if I had a chip on my shoulder, it could become quite annoying. I try to accept things as they are and move on from there. I try to make positive change, but everything has its pros and cons.
You can’t be too shy. If you are, things will pass you by. People are more apt to converse with you if you’re cheerful. My advice is give it your best shot, aim high, and don’t focus on negative vibes people give.
Joanne’s new work on fabric samples is currently on exhibit in the Front Gallery at Gateway Arts.
Joanne O’Connell: Paintings on Fabric
June 3 – August 23, 2014
The Gateway Gallery
62 Harvard Street 2nd Floor
Brookline, MA 02445
Gallery Hours: Mon. – Fri. 9-4:30PM * Sat. Noon -5PM
Always Open Online