Mon 19 Dec 2005
My second trip to the Carlisle House on December 6, was a much more enjoyable experience. The weather was gorgeous and the walk there with Ellen and Jackie was a very pleasurable one. When I arrived at the Carlisle House I was immediately greeted by Ron, who was sitting over by the arts a crafts table. I broke off from Ellen and Jackie effortlessly, I was not at all apprehensive or nervous. Ron and I immediately started talking about race car driving and other various sports; he seemed very happy that I had arrived. Suddenly, however, a very tiny woman seemed to come out of nowhere and abruptly pulled me, Ellen and Jackie into the side room. The woman introduced herself as Peanut and seemed in a desperate hurry to get us to help her make a crown for the new Karaoke Queen. We all agreed to help her out when we got back from Christmas break and she was very thankful. She gave us all big hugs and told us how much she loved teenagers. I then went back into the main room and talked to Ron with Jackie for another half an hour and then helped Peanut and Christy decorate the Christmas tree for the remaining hour. All in all, it was a very rewarding, magical experience that I enjoyed immensely.
There was something about Ron’s demeanor that drew me to him. He seemed like the nicest most honest person I had ever met. When I arrived at the Carlisle House, Ron was just sitting at the arts and crafts table watching a woman named Brenda paint wooden Christmas stockings. Ron seemed so content with himself, just sitting there observing the scenery, it made me very interested in him; I wanted to know what he was thinking. When I spoke to him we primarily talked about cars and sports and typical male dominated things. However, I thought it was interesting the way that, Ron, a person with a cognitive impairment, could be so socially similar to my other guy friends. What I talked about with Ron was pretty similar to what I usually talk about with all my other guy friends who don’t have a cognitive impairment. I have always known not to judge a person based on their appearance, however, Ron looked to be physically normal. It was his cognitive state that deemed him anomalous, and yet, what was so interesting was that we engaged in very similar conversations to ones I might have had with someone without an impairment. Given that there was some difference in the way that Ron interacted and presented himself with me, I think it was really great for me to see just how similar these he was compared to anyone else.
As hard as I tried to stay open-minded at the Carlisle House, I think I still allowed there to be a gap between me and the people who were severely impaired. I was definitely more drawn to those that looked physically “normal.” One of Mary Garland Thomson’s five assumptions about what human beings instinctively do is that we “avoid the anomalous.” I must confess that I did keep towards Ron for most of the time I spent at the Carlisle House because he acted particularly normal compared to some of the other members. However, I think that if I were given more time I would have eventually branched out and befriended those who had more severe cognitive impairments and probably had less in common with me than Ron did.