Disability ... a term filled with sadness, regret over what one can't do. I remember that my father used to get very upset upon hearing that word, after his amputation, instead wanting to focus on what he could do.
My mother could be considered 'disabled' now. She uses a transport chair to get around. She walks with difficulty, if at all. Her mind is sharp, but her physical abilities are limited.
Yet, last week we went on a trip to visit her old friend, and I have walked away realizing again, that her greatest disability is not her physical constraints, but her unwillingness to expend herself mentally and emotionally. She has admitted she is lazy, and I haven't seen any evidence to contradict her. She admitted she is 'non-participative', and I agree.
We spent the day with her childhood friend, the same age as her. Her friend is not as physically-challenged as my mother, though she has recent changes in her state of health. But she has stayed engaged with life, curious, eager to know more and to stay connected.
In contrast, my mother just sat in her chair, staring into space. She didn't ask questions about her friend's recent loss of her husband, about her children or grandchildren, or about her health. Mom just sat there, and when she spoke, she commanded. "Give me a kleenex!" or "Take me to the bathroom".
I have become very friendly with this friend of my mother's, and she expressed shock at my mother's decline and her commanding tone. We spoke later, and she told me about my grandmother (whom I never met). She would tell her family that she felt weak (feigning illness? or, ill?), and all would dance around her, and do her bidding. And my grandmother would take my mother to the department store (with her friend), and buy her 2-3 dresses at a time - during the depression, when they were in financial straits to the point of losing their house.
My mother grew up in an environment where she felt entitled, privileged. She married my father, who adored her, and she continued as the princess. My father 'carried her' socially, making the friendships for her (then breaking them when his temper caused a rupture). But my mother just remained passive, waiting for good things and for people to come to her, to entertain her, to worship her. When he died 15+ years ago, she has just slowly withered with boredom.
I honestly believe that is her true disability - her unwillingness to give of herself, her unfamiliarity with even HOW to engage with others. It's like speaking Chinese to her when I talk to her about it. She is crippled by her own self-absorption. She is hobbled by laziness and disinterest. That is the tragedy - she could have had such a rich life, had she been willing to do more for herself and more for others.