Thursday, September 6, 2012

Home At Last

I arrived home in New York last night. Of course, there's no going home again, things were naturally more different in me than in my apartment and neighbourhood, but it felt great to be sitting at home, chilling on my couch with some Lebanese salad, chatting with Bret, almost as if the last eleven months hadn't happened.

That's a danger: slipping back in to the same patterns of living that ended up with me having a stroke (by which I do not mean chatting to Bret). Given how stark the consequences are when I don't exercise, and how within a day or two, my motor control gets worse and I start to walk worse, and so on, I don't think that's going to happen.

Negotiating JFK was interesting, if awkward, given that my bag was horribly heavy (so much so that I wasn't able to get it all the way up the stairs; another one I owe Bret). 

The best part of it, from my perspective, was immigration. Since I was out of the country more than six months, I could be considered to have abandoned my residency, and they might have taken my Green Card away. Since it took me over nine years to gain residency and I have every intention of becoming a citizen when I can, this would have been a very bad thing.

I was prepared, though:  I had medical statements and similar documentation, including a stellar letter from my NHS physio, to show that I had good reason to be out of the country so long. If necessary I had them to hand for the border agent (a veteran of the WTC rescue mission), and my friendly lawyer took a break from evicting grannies to find out that if they did seize my Green Card, I could get it back.

The whole thing should have been very worrying, and I was certainly concerned; I had prepared all the paperwork, after all. But it didn't really ever bother me right up until the moment of truth. I managed, instead, to identify whatever happened at the border, given that I had done the prep, was outside my control and beyond my ability to influence further, and so there was no point worrying about it. So I didn't.

When it came to it, the officer was friendly and helpful, and didn't want to see any of the evidence I had to hand. I'm still a legal permanent resident, on the long road to citizenship.

Subsequently, it has occurred to me first that my facial palsy and walking stick are fairly big signs that are rather hard to fake. Second, that the facial palsy in particular provokes all sorts of assumptions. Most often, and most irritating, is the assumption that because my face is partially impaired, I must be stupid. I say that it is the most irritating, because it really does not thrill me to be thought stupid, but it's also, sometimes, to my advantage and when that's the case, I make the most of it.

I'm not saying that I hammed up being a dummy for the agent, nor that he thought I was mentally impaired (we talked, after all, about working for Google), but to be perceived as less threatening because of a disability is sometimes quite useful, and you had better believe I'm going to use it, because there's quite enough of everything else that got harder.

Anyway, it's almost 7am in New York. It's going to be a hot day, and I'm off to sort my gym membership out.