Monday, June 18, 2012

Vacationing with the Disabled

Last Saturday was my wife's birthday and we celebrated by taking a three day cruise out of New York. I'm not sure if I should mention the name of the cruise line, but suffice it to say it has something to do with a Very Famous Mouse (VFM).  We have a place down at the Very Famous Mouse's establishment in Central Florida, and just enjoy the service we get.  When you've got MS and bipolar, the fact that the only decision you need to make is how much food you want to gorge yourself on (or could if you wanted to -we need to be as healthy as possible, and you can eat that way at VFM's) is not too bad.  All right, every few years, I have a turkey leg in the Magic Kingdom, OK?

Hey, I'm on vacation here.

On this particular trip, there was a large group of developmentally disabled folks and another group from Autism On The Seas which takes children with special needs and their families on cruises that include special staffing and activities. Commendations to both groups for taking their charges on a good time where they can be pampered, and see young people dressed up as cartoon characters, all friends of the VFM.

Except Donald.  And Daisy. And the security staff had a woeful night.  But more on that in a minute.

To keep ourselves on the BP/MS track, maybe its just me, but since I was diagnosed with both things, I seem to be able to see "one of us " in the everyday world.  I mean wheel chairs, walkers, and canes being used by folks our age and younger with that "certain walk" (it's the way we do the things we do), makes it easier to spot MS or one of its cousins.  But even the slower walk, stiff legs, and perpetual look of exhaustion and we can see us.  We just fall in tune with each other.  Now BP is different since it doesn't totally manifest itself externally if the person that has it is doing his or her best to control symptoms.  But you definitely know "one of us" when things aren't going well.

Like Saturday night on the ship.  And for this young man we saw walk by us midship, there were certainly some issues.  He was of Southeast Asian descent, was very skinny and wore older clothes and work boots.  He was carrying a toy baby in his arm when we first saw him, but we admitted that the ship had so many "cast members" he may have been a worker from below decks and he was just carrying the toy that some child had left behind.

Following dinner, the VFM's friends appear for pictures with the guests (and provide the guests the opportunity to pay big bucks for copies of said pictures).  We normally pay little attention (OK, we've already got our pictures) and went on to other things.  Except you could not ignore the man crying on the stairs.  His story was that he has very little money and spent most of it on the cruise so he could meet Donald Duck.  Since it was a three day trip, not everyone comes along, through it was nice to see Captain Hook and Smee along for the ride.   But no Donald. No Daisy.  Disappointing for most of us, especially we drugged up people.  But the man was crushed, and began wailing.  Since this might start a larger chorus of wailing to be supported by children, babies, and some of the more challenged guests, the big guys in the white "Love Boat" suits "escorted" the gentleman up the stairs and into a spare room, and was followed by the well coiffed VFM's staff. Calm was restored, but it was the gossip of the ship.

Now this is a VFM cruise, so you know there's a happy ending.  He was granted a special one hour meeting with Donald, and then Daisy.  Two hours with his favorites. Two hours.  I wonder if the man knows that Donald and Daisy do not talk.  How many pictures can you take?  And I am hoping Donald and Daisy's helpers were compensated accordingly.  We saw the gentleman leaving with his suitcase (shopping bag) and new friend Duffy the Bear.  The baby had been abandoned, apparently, which annoyed the social services worker still in me.  I mean, the baby can blink and wet, but all Duffy does is stare at you. All day. With those beady black eyes.

I have to the credit the folks on the VFM Cruise Lines for dealing with those of us who can't control their reactions, no matter what they or we try.  I still have my moments.  We've been going to That Place in Orlando that the VFM owns for over 25 years, and I swear, the first time we got our picture with him and even the most recent, there were tears in my eyes.  That's the Mouse.  My very hip nieces and nephew are rolling their eyes, I know.  Those 20 somethings don't get it.  But for us, for our age, that's the Mouse.  And when those 20 somethings have their kids and they want to go to a certain place in Orlando, and know a certain aunt and uncle have that place there.....they'll get it, and I know they'll be treated special as we were and those other folks were on the VFM cruise.

Turkey leg! In 4 months we're going to Orlando and it's turkey leg time!  I hope my wife doesn't read this part.

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