Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Motivational Speaker

Defending Against Terrible Palsy

Filed under: Living with a disability — by at 1:29 pm on Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Kungfu fighter
(Photo credit: Sonja Mildner)

Saturday afternoon Darrell and I had our first martial arts class for people with mobility disabilities, which was quite a work out. Definitely more physically exerting than sitting at my computer all day! After only one session, I am feeling more confident in defending myself, at least from physical threats.

With us both being in power chairs, riding home on the bus means sitting across the aisle from each other. Any conversation we do have is overheard by passengers in close proximity.

An older woman was sitting in the one seat in front of me; her rosary beads in her hand. She looked up at Darrell and asked, “You understand her?”

A little shocked, Darrell politely responded, “Yes.”

She continued, “Is she your wife or a friend?”

Darrell replied, “She is my wife.”

Astonished, she asked, “She is really your wife?”

Somewhat annoyed, he confirmed that I was, indeed, was his wife.

At that point, I saw something I hadn’t seen in years: a look pity of washed across her face. Her rosary beads began moving at speed that I didn’t know was humanly possible. I can only imagine what she was praying: Please don’t let me catch this. Please don’t let me catch this. Please let me off the bus before I catch this.

As she left the bus at her stop, I couldn’t help thinking she was another unenlightened soul who probably had led a rather sheltered life. Who should feel for sorry for whom? Darrell and I laughed it off, and continued discussing our class and speculating what we may learn next week.

The condition Terrible Palsy came to mind:

This condition manifests itself through pity and audible sighing of those around you. Terrible Palsy can be deceiving because you can be asymptomatic for weeks, months, or even years, and then just when you and your family are feeling really good about your child [or yourself], it can present itself in the form of a condescending pat on the head or a blessing from an anonymous busybody.

One can learn how to defend against physical attacks. How does one learn to defend against such unseen yet potentially as harmful threats as Terrible Palsy?

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a chai tea latte. Thanks kindly.

Random Posts



Comment by Karen Putz

September 25, 2007 @ 3:24 pm

I’m sure she learned something from you both that day.

Hmm, next time that happens, discuss a little bit about your ahem, S – – life. That should truly enlighten!

Comment by Mary McD

September 25, 2007 @ 4:00 pm


Maybe you can frame this differently. Instead of imagining that she was praying that she didn’t catch it, she was praying that you have the strength to make it through with continued good spirits. I mention this because my mom is a big believer in prayer, and often says that she prays for others who bear more burdens than those around them. It is not out of pity; rather, she does it to strengthen them for the road ahead.


Comment by Glenda

September 25, 2007 @ 4:15 pm

Thanks Mary, you’re right. I don’t know what she was praying. That comment was presumptuous on my part. But, it was a look of pity on her face.

Comment by Jacqui

September 25, 2007 @ 7:59 pm

Hi Glenda. I personally would just feel sorry for her for being so shallow. Then go and treat yourself to a bag of M&Ms. As hard as it is, just take the time to realise what a fantastic job you are doing – you are changing the world and how people think – one person at a time. You are one of my heroes 😉

Comment by Debra Helwig

September 26, 2007 @ 4:19 am

Hi Glenda:

Perhaps you should get some business cards printed up with your blog address on them, so when people act like that, you can give them one. That opens a door both ways — you combat the “terrible palsy” because you know you’re giving them an opportunity to learn the truth; and suddenly they have an open door to learn it.

You are doing mighty things and telling a powerful story here. Let the medium work for you in this instance as well.

Congrats on the martial arts class, by the way!


Comment by Glenda

September 26, 2007 @ 10:28 am

Thanks Jacqui, my warped sense of humour helps in moments like those! Sometimes it is a blessing that I’m non-verbal because people really don’t want to know what I’m thinking right then. It always amazes me how people think they can ask us anything, as if our lives are an open book.

Great idea, Debra. Thank you. And, pictures from class MAY be forthcoming.

Comment by RennyBA

September 26, 2007 @ 2:51 pm

First of all, thanks for being so open and sharing this with us Glenda – you are a woman with great guts!

Like others have said: The problem is this woman’s and her reaction!

Keep up the good work and indeed; keep us posted 🙂

Comment by Jana

September 27, 2007 @ 12:08 pm

MARTIAL ARTS!!!! You go girl!!! I always thought of taking karate or something!

Hey, I’m doing interviews for another blog, and was going to see if you’d allow me to interview you again?

Comment by kait

October 16, 2007 @ 3:02 pm

While I was listening to your story, I somehow put myself in the character of the ignorant lady. Now I myself am a nurse AND a starer, because I like watching people. And I also have a disability, although it is usually “invisible.” (HA!) My face might have registered something too, something like, “Oh God I get some of their difficulties. And look, they’re fine!” Because I am not yet accepting of my disability, this look might have expressed pain, or pity. For myself, that I am not at that okay place yet (not even convinced that I will be someday). But I know that my beads would have been moving in thanks for the scene that I was allowed to witness, for the example to me. However, ignorant lady’s questions and comments I have no explanation for. Those would have put a look of scorn on my face, clearly not a helpful response. Thanks for sharing this story, and in such a way to give me more to think about.

Comment by Diane

November 6, 2007 @ 10:23 pm

Ugh .. no need pity — good for the elderly woman to learn new things anyway. One time the elderly woman found out that I am Deaf .. and felt sorry for me. She handed me 20 dollars cash but I smiled and walked away. What a life!

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>