My Mothers’ Day

They both died at 68, one by her own hand, the other, cancer. Both gone too soon as far as I’m concerned and both were in the light of reality, my mother.

One of the things you learn as a child who has been adopted is this; blood may be thicker than water but family is thicker than blood. One of the phrases all adoptees I know truly hate is, “Well who are your real parents?”  Hell, I’ve known mothers and fathers who are anything but loving and kind to their genetic progeny. In fact, some of the most brutal experiences some children have gone through were inflicted by one or both of their parents. Like I said, blood may be thicker than water but family is thicker than blood.

Frankly, I only use the term adoptive mother and birth mother so the listener or reader can tell who I am talking about. In my heart, there are no qualifiers, they are both my mother. There is my mother Virginia who raised me and my mother Leona who surrendered me for adoption for reasons not of her making I would learn when we were reunited on January 8, 1987.

Like any human being, neither was perfect, but both loved me and from both I learned and gained an enormous amount. Both were instinctively supportive of equal rights for everyone and both were deeply empathetic to the underdog, the castaway, the persecuted. Both were fiercely supportive of my advocacy instincts. In fact, for years my mother Virginia was my number one confidant when it came to things like fighting for the Brady Bill and against the death penalty, when it came to fighting for Gay rights and disability rights and against things like anti-Semitism. 

My mother Leona was, without question, my emotional and spiritual familiar. Time with her allowed me to learn a lot about where who I am came from. To this day she is one of the most emotionally and physically courageous human beings I have ever known.

My mother Virginia ended her life August 12, 1992 and my mother Leona died of cancer on December 19, 2001.

I can tell you that I love both my mothers with all my heart and I miss them both – with all my heart.

I love them my whole wide world and then some.

I Hear I’m Controversial

Sometimes a part of our truth can be right in front of us and we can’t see it. Case in point: I sheepishly confess that I was utterly entirely flabbergasted this morning when a friend of mine said, “Well, you know you’re controversial, Peter.”  It was, I’ve gathered since talking to others since this morning’s conversation, and enduring everyone’s laughter by the way, a rather prominent deer in the headlights moment for me. I instinctively responded by saying, “Why should equal rights be controversial?”

They are.

I asked them why they think I’m controversial. The theme of their answers was the same. You call out people, companies, agencies, government agencies on their actions or lack of actions. You don’t politically walk on eggs. You are deeply sensitive to all minorities and you don’t hesitate to identify those who persecute them, even when you know it is going to cost you. People know if you see people being mistreated you’re going to say it and name names. One person said, You drag things into the light.

Well, if that all makes me controversial then I’m glad I am. I was recently in a meeting where someone I respect a great deal said part of advocacy is about pushing the envelope.

One person said, Some folks hope you’ll just go away.  Those who hope I’ll just go away are those who through action or inaction support things that deny people their rights.

I know of too many people whose support for minorities like people with disabilities, Gays, Lesbians, blacks, Latinos, Jews, Muslims, Native Americans is cast in lip service and self-aggrandizement. Bad news for these folks. I’m not going away. I can’t. I’m controversial.

It’s All Civil Rights

Anytime anyone is being denied equal treatment under the law they are experiencing discrimination and their civil rights are being violated.

According to statelawyers.com “discrimination occurs when the civil rights of an individual are denied or interfered with because of their membership in a particular group or class.” Setting aside my personal distaste for the context in which the word class is being used here,  the key component of the quote is “all people”. Not just people who live with disabilities, or people who are gay or lesbian or black or Latino – all people.

The fact some do not see gay and lesbian civil rights, or disability civil rights, as civil rights issues does not make them evil. It’s simply testimony to the learning curve or, perhaps better put, awareness curve they need to travel. Many years ago I saw a documentary in which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was attacked by a white man in his fifties. Dr. King was unhurt, the man was quickly subdued and, I would presume, arrested. The audience was angry. Dr. King asked them what they would believe if they had been told every day for fifty years of life that blacks were bad.

Many of our brothers and sisters have been raised to experience people who live with disabilities as being less than others. Many have been led to believe that  people who are gay and lesbian are somehow out-of-kilter on the moral front. The fact that these beliefs are welded into the minds of too many does not give them credence or accuracy. Instead, those that live out and spread these beliefs further poison our culture’s ability to experience each other as equals, which is what we are.

The denial of equality is the denial of civil rights. It’s all civil rights

BACK ON DISABILITY: SOME REFLECTIONS

I am going back on disability. I never wanted to say that sentence, much less write it. However, reality is a harsh master at times, and if there is one thing that has never been in the same room with bigotry, it’s reality.

Long ago, I learned that life happens to us whether we like it or not. What was it John Lennon wrote years ago? “Life is what happens to us while we’re busy making other plans.” So true.

If memory serves, I was on disability from 1985 to 1992. In 1992, after my mother committed suicide, I threw my all into getting off the disability rolls and succeeded. Although, when I told Social Security I wanted my benefits to stop I threw them into such a tizzy I began to think I’d asked them to explain Einstein’s theory of relativity by mistake.

My focus now it to do my best to make sure certain things in my life remain stable and strong: first and foremost, my sobriety (without that, all else perishes); my ability to help others by bringing them a message of hope that is based on real truths with real strategies, not just the kind of pie in the sky bullshit; my writing; and my ability to advocate for anybody who is being denied the right to be who they are safely in the world we all live in.

Human rights covers everyone and equal rights belongs to everyone – and I mean everyone: people who are gay and lesbian; people who live with disabilities; people from every religion; people who are poor; people who are rich; blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians, Arabs, Israelis – everyone. Everyone.

You can rest assured I will keep writing too.

I am closing in on the end of my memoir and I am going to send it to some agents. If any of you can suggest a reputable one, let me know. I may well send it directly to some publishers. I’d be open to any suggestions on that front as well. I have two novels churning around and I recently decided to write a book about what it has been like to work in the field of brain injury for nearly 15 years.

I’ve gotten some interesting feedback on the book last mentioned. Some people are thrilled and some are, well, worried, and some are scared. All I can say is I have no targets. My intention is to write it honestly and, as the saying goes, let the chips fall where they may.

Like any field I suppose, the field of brain injury has some extraordinary people working in it. There are company owners and management folks who are great. There are , you may be surprised to hear, people in the government, in the regulatory agencies, who are also great.

However, there are those in the aforementioned categories that belong on the other side of the coin from great, the darker side, if you will. There are those driven by greed and the lust for power. There are others, too many others, who descend on a badly wounded population of people with the sole intent intent of controlling them and manipulating them, in some cases through intimidation, so they can keep them in their programs or in their facilities to make money off them. Sadly, many of our badly wounded in life brothers and sisters find themselves herded into socially-approved corrals where their vulnerabilities coupled with the design of these corrals makes it a near certainty their rights and dignity will be taken away. I have witnessed this and fought this and paid the price for doing so over the years. I am paying the price even today. But this is something I am willing to give my life for. And if that happens down the road, I’ll be in good company.

You need to know that while my pen fiercely abhors dishonesty and distortion, its loyalty to honesty and clarity is unflinching and ferocious. There are some in “high places” today who go through their days wedded to the sadly mistaken belief that they are invulnerable. Wrong. Remember what I said at the beginning of this essay? Reality can be a harsh master. Always it is a just master; it spares no one.

Over the years, we have all seen many of the so-called mighty toppled from toppled from their perches, their eyes glazed over with disbelief, their expressions seem to say, “How could this happen to me? I was in my impenetrable fortress?” We’ve all seen it. Their faces etches in bewilderment, shock and dismay, their tormented expressions crying out, “Poor me! Poor me!”… Oh well…

But for now, it is back onto disability for me. As time goes by the impact of the damage I live with from the shooting changes. However, there is one thing that will never change: my unflinching commitment to doing all I can to advocate for every person’s right to be who he or she is safely in the world in which we all live in.