Friday, August 21, 2009

It's hard to know where to begin

After all the planning, all the discussions, after so many sleepless nights for Marty as he obsessed over details, it all came together so beautifully yesterday. Marty and Jim left early to take care of getting things set up, bringing a lot of stuff with them, including the scooter and my lounge chair. There was one table which displayed the various awards and citations I've been given over the years--one of them, the Pike Prize, given by the Boston University Law School to a person who has advanced the rights of people with disabilities, is unbelievably heavy! So getting everything transported and set up was a big job.

Meanwhile, Julie and Florence were helping me to get ready. Julie worked on my hair, and I sat so I was able to do my makeup myself. Evelyn brushed my dress to get cat hair off it (everything in this house eventually picks up cat hair). Then Judy arrived to drive me. I filled up the portable oxygen machine from the big tank, and right away ran into a problem, as it is supposed to "pulse" oxygen in little puffs, and instead the oxygen was flowing freely. I called the oxygen company and talked to one of the technicians, who said that the machine had probably frozen up and they could swap it for another one, but weren't able to do it just then. I asked him if he thought it would last all afternoon and he said that it probably wouldn't (in the pulse mode it lasts six to seven hours), so I decided we should take the portable concentrator too, only I couldn't find it! Judy went searching around, and then I called Marty, who couldn't remember where he had put it. Since we still have the small oxygen tank we got from the fire company in North Attleborough the last time we had an oxygen emergency, I decided to take that as a backup. (Of course, this morning, with no more pressure on him, Marty found the portable concentrator pretty quickly.)

There was no traffic and we got to B.U. shortly before two, the scheduled start time. I called Marty to let him know we were (illegally) parked right outside the Sherman Union building, and in a few minutes Jim arrived pushing my scooter. I got in and rode into the building and up the elevator. There was a registration table, which friends of Marty's were staffing, where people could sign in and get their name tags, and in the room itself there were numerous round tables, as well as a few tables where food was laid out, and a bar with a bartender which had wine and soft drinks. Some people had already arrived, and more were coming in, and I buzzed around in the scooter for a few minutes greeting people, until I realized that I was tired. I am so glad that Julie decided we should have the lounge chair with us, as I definitely would have gotten exhausted sitting up for all those hours.

A lot is a blur, as there were so many people, including some whom I hadn't seen in many years. One of the first people I spotted as I came into the room was my dear friend Pat Risser, who lives in Ohio, and who decided just two days ago that he didn't want to miss it. He had called me the night before to let me know, so it wasn't a surprise to see him (his phone call was a surprise), but it was certainly wonderful to have him there. Pat and I have hung out together at many NARPA conferences, Alternatives conferences, and other places, and we consider ourselves to be brother and sister.

After I settled in my chair, lots of people came up to talk with me, and it was great to see people talking with one another and figuring out the various ways they were connected with me. I was also so happy that Donna was there, as she has done so much work on the event and has been such a great support for Marty. I talked, among others, with Dayna C., whom I probably haven't seen in at least fifteen years; Joanne S., who was a member of MPLF (the Mental Patients' Liberation Front) when I first moved to Boston in 1976, whom I probably haven't seen since some time in the '80's; and a number of other people, but my memory is a bit jumbled.

Marty and I discussed when we should start the formal program, wanting to make sure that most people had arrived, and I think we got started a bit before three. Marty made some opening remarks, and then introduced Dan Fisher on video. The night before I had watched Dan's video, which was too long, and decided that the last five minutes of it would do fine, so Marty had worked with the audio-visual guy to get it cued up (and to show David Oak's video, which had to be taken from You-Tube). While Dan's video was showing, I whispered to Marty that he had forgotten to read the citation we had gotten from the governor, so then he read that as well as the one from the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

The next speaker was Tina Minkowitz, who has spent the last few years working on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, and who spoke about the need for continued advocacy to see that this treaty (which has been signed by President Obama) is ratified by the Senate, and then implemented. If laws really are changed to bring them in line with the provisions of the convention, there would be no more involuntary commitment or forced drugging! Tina is also the co-chair of the World Association for Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (

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