Guest blogger: Marjorie Aunos - Becoming a parent with a disability and what dinner means

Marjorie with her son in an apple orchard

A few weeks ago I wrote about my colleague and friend, Dr Marjorie Aunos, from the West Montreal Readaptation Centre in Montreal, Canada. Marjorie recently visited Sydney and gave a lecture about her experiences from leading research into parenting with a disability to becoming a parent with a disability herself.

Marjorie and I met in Seattle, USA sixteen years ago. We've worked together in Montreal and in Sydney in the years since. When we caught up recently we laughed about how many times we'd rescued each other. In Sydney, I rescued Marjorie from a large skink that appeared out from under her desk where she was working. Having never seen such a beast before, she ran out into the hallway screaming when she saw it.

In Montreal, Marjorie rescued me from extraordinary embarrassment. We had just finished presenting a workshop at a disability conference in a very swanky hotel. I was gripped by extreme jetlag and sat down in a plush chair in the very posh foyer of this hotel. When Marjorie found me, I was sound asleep, head on my chest (and worse, dribbling). She hustled me to my feet just before the Dalai Lama came past with his entourage (he happened to be staying at this hotel at the same time).

We recently also had the chance to chat about Dinner on the Table. As a woman and mother with a physical disability, Marjorie has a very particular viewpoint about what we're trying to do, and in particular the power of a gifted dinner. I'm delighted to welcome her as our first ever guest blogger.

Marjorie says:

Marjorie lying in a hospital bed with her son assisting her with breathing exercises

My car accident which rendered me paraplegic sent a shock wave through my community of friends, colleagues and family members. I guess nobody could believe that this would happen to someone they knew, someone who was this close to them... Yet it did. I think people were as heart broken as I was. And this made people want to help and reach out.

Everyone wrote their prayers and messages of encouragement and hope in cards. A few bouquets of flowers were sent but the best ever gifts I received were in the form of...meals! The home cooked ones!

The reputation hospitals have is true: the food tastes disgusting! No herbs. No salt. Powdered potatoes. Canned fruits. And anything else along those lines. I don't know why they cook it,  because patients (me in particular) don't eat it. I was in pain, numbed by medication and the trauma of the accident and my many surgeries, I was depressed and shocked by what had happened. All this suppressed my appetite. Add disgusting food and I was not eating. Which meant I was not physically or psychologically recuperating as I needed to.

And then a beautiful miracle happened. Amongst friends family and colleagues people organized and... Fed me! They relayed each other and provided me with home cooked meals that some of them (my closest friends) would hand deliver (and sometimes hand feed me). At least one meal a day was a home made meal prepared by someone who poured their love and compassion into it. For me.

Now, I can tell you that receiving a home made meal does more for your soul than your body. It has the capacity to nourish and sustain your body with appropriate nutrients, vitamins, proteins and fibre. But at the same time it can heal you from trauma, and prepares you to recuperate.

Preparing a home made meal for someone connects that person to the world. It makes them part of the community that grew the vegetables, to the person who cut them up and cooked them into something great.

Receiving a home cooked meal means: we care for you. We support you. We are here for you. You matter! All those messages will help any depressed or sadden soul. It helps any broken body to recuperate and get strong again. It can also provide respite to overwhelmed mothers.

When someone else does dinner it gives you time to do what matters to you: to go to the gym or spend time with your children, allow you to breathe or do an errand you just needed to do...

Buying a Dinner on the Table dinner will at the same time help other families be connected to the world, include them and support them. Not only will you do good by your family, you will do good for your community!

Treat yourself!