Saturday, July 29, 2017

Terrapins Cross The Road

for Johnny

Terrapins cross the road before it rains,
I explain.
His expression doesn't change -
same desire to please me.

He's 58 going on 3;
retarded, as it used to be
called, before bureaucracy
turned him into a person with . . . name malady.

Now there's outings he doesn't want to take.
Moves to integrate he doesn't want to make.
Terrapins cross the road before it rains,
I explain.
His expression doesn't change -
same desire to please me.

For Karin's prompt at Real Toads

Note:  Not long after the passage of the American's with Disabilities Act, the federal government outlawed the practice of placing otherwise healthy individuals with developmental disabilities in nursing home.  However, it allowed persons who had lived in nursing homes most of their lives (an many had!) to remain in place as long as special programs for independent living and community integration were provided.  The results were mixed and sometimes hilarious.  The story above is true. I laugh every time I remember pulling over to the side of the road to capture a terrapin for my client to examine, and my client's long-suffering tolerance for my enthusiasm.

20 comments:

Outlawyer said...

The inevitability of the terrapins echoes in the sameness of the desire to please and what is slow here is emphasized but in a very gentle and sweet way. A story that may be readily even without the note though it too is interesting. Thanks,mz.

said...

I will happily play the part of Johnny in this piece.

Effective repetition.

Fireblossom said...

Terrapins were perfect for the story you told. I can just see your stoic, unobjecting passenger.

Sanaa Rizvi said...

Oh this is absolutely brilliant, MZ!

Susie Clevenger said...

Oh I can feel the whatever in your patient, but yet his/her patience in letting you tell him over and over again.

Magaly Guerrero said...

The repetition of the first stanza in the end is just perfect. Like in any good story, you tell us and show us what happens. And we see it, feel it...

Martin Kloess said...

Such a moving tale you brought to life.

angieinspired said...

❤️

Sioux Roslawski said...

MZ--ANOTHER layer of the onion pulled off. Your post-note made me curious about all the lives you've led, the jobs you've done.

Sarah Russell said...

Love the over-zealous teacher and tolerant student. Such superb role reversal! Well done.

Kim Russell said...


I love the patience towards the patient as conveyed in the opening lines. Bureaucracy doesn't allow for shades of grey or terrapin.

Kerry O'Connor said...

There is something about the image of a terrapin crossing the road that fills me with both awe and terror - much like life, for which I feel myself becoming increasingly disabled as I grow older: such a tough journey for so little reward.

Brendan MacOdrum said...

Was that when Reagan dispelled the mentally ill from institutions, putting many on the street? I love the patience of this patient who had had long experience being misunderstood and misderected by the normal folk.

Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

A great story. I love the way the 'normal' person is the one who learns the lesson here. And you've also suggested all sorts of deeper implications which need considering.

paulscribbles said...

So Terrapins are like some kind of barometer? If you see them crossing pull out your brolly kinda thing? and if they don't cross the road does that mean it can never rain?

Toni Spencer said...

I always pull over to help a turtle cross the road, no matter how busy it is. I love your story, how student teaches and the teacher learns. At the nursing home where my mother was, is several individuals who have been institutionalized since they were teenagers. But they seem to always be happy and integrated into the society of the nursing home. I found these people to be loving and grateful for attention and in turn, I received love from them. when my mom died, one of the men saw me come in to clean out her room. He wheeled himself into the room with me and patted my hands and gave me his tissue when I broke down in tears going, 'there there' 'there there'. I loved this story from you.

Sara McNulty said...

Patience and gentleness are the key elements here. What a wonderful story to share.

grapeling said...

the patience of patients, I suppose... ~

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Oh, and what meaningful work you do, providing support to someone with a disability. I love this poem, the terrapins and his bemused face, listening to your explanation.

Marian said...

Hah. Love this cute story, but the bigger picture is so present, too, in these brief words... "moves to integrate" with mixed results. Yep. Love it.