One of the things I will always appreciate about my mother, Claire, is that she always treated me like a person.
She used to say that she enjoyed her two kids much more when we got older because you can't have real conversations with a baby. As we got older, we got more interesting … not easier mind you … more engaging. In other words, at some point we became people to her. I never felt like Mom saw me as anything more or less than a person, never a symbol, a message, a burden, or a reward. In her eyes, I didn’t represent or mean anything but myself.
At the same time, Mom was definitely the sort of person who thought that individuals were important mainly in terms of what they did. She wasn't a right winger or a capitalist, so she didn't care that much about whether people were "productive" or "successful", but rather that everyone should fulfill their potential and add something to the world.
Mom didn’t have much of a direct influence on my disability consciousness, because I don’t think she ever adopted any distinct personal theory of disability. I think for her, disability was just a thing that happened, not something you had to think about much beyond practicalities. That was pretty much how I viewed my disabilities until well into adulthood. And even though I now wrestle with the social and political aspects of disability, personally, I still tend to think of my own disabilities in purely practical terms.
That's fine. Mom helped me become a person, and appreciated me as a person, which gave me a strong base to build on. I think that's the best thing parents of a disabled child can do. I don’t spend a lot of time these days actively missing Mom, but I often wish I could discuss ideas about disability with her now. I wonder what she would think? I do know it would be a great conversation.
Here are some of my favorite photos of my mother:
Mom and her three siblings. From the left: Dana, Barbara, Claire (Mom), and Kit.
Mom and Dad (Peter), I think shortly before being married.
The classic family portrait: My brother Ian, Cleopatra (the dog), Mom, baby Andrew (me!), Dad.
The Fearon siblings, all grown up: Dana, Kit (back), Claire (Mom), and Barbara.
Mom and my brother’s dog, Opus … A.K.A., Mom’s granddaughter.
Mom … Claire Anne Pulrang, 1926 - 1997