A Bit of Disability History

My mother-in-law has posted to her blog (I know!  How cool is that?!) the obituary of her Uncle Oris who died in 1932 at the age of 29.  He had a disability — perhaps spina bifida — and his obituary is a truly amazing piece of writing.  Steeped in language we would never use today — “hopeless cripple” — it is also shows a respect for independence that we are still working toward over 70 years later.

His greatest earthly desire was that he should and would be self-supporting. Therefore, early in life (in fact when most normal boys of his age would have been depending solely upon parents for support) this little boy was planning ways and means for his own support, and in his almost helpless condition, was carrying his plans into effect. In addition to his pursuit of literary knowledge he studied the mechanism of jewelry and had become proficient in his knowledge of watches, clocks, etc., with the ability to correct the defects.

In conclusion I desire to express the hope that this community who knew him so intimately and loved him so well will profit by his life of application in the pursuit of knowledge and independency.

He was integrated into his family and community, even in small-town Kentucky in the early 20th century.  I think Nora captured this perfectly.  The writer

saw in Oris all the greatness of a life and the sadness of a system that did not allow for a formal education to everyone.

The religious language of the obituary is beyond anything you’d see in a mainstream newspaper these days, and initially made me cringe.  But as I read on I had increasing admiration for this writer’s unrestrained style.  He writes what he feels, no baloney, no spin.  Obviously, I can’t adopt this style in my work life, no matter how accurate.  (“Opposing counsel is a lying sack of shit, Your Honor.”)  But it feels like something to strive for in my recreational writing.  (“I feel like I hit some kind of in-law lottery jackpot.”)

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