A big thank you to Bob Harris who recently shared some memories from his life with us and his wife Denise.
I am 71 years old this year and I’ve had cerebral palsy all my life. My wife Denise is 69, and she has cerebral palsy too. I started at the CPL school in New Farm in 1953. They had a really old bus that used to pick me up from Indooroopilly, and we picked up people along the way. Back then, everybody was like family.
I went to CPL for primary school. In year 8 we had the scholarship exam and because of my grades, I was one of the first to go to a mainstream high school. Today, many young people with disabilities get to be part of a mainstream school system, which is great. Everyone should be given every opportunity to be independent.
After high school I got my first job through the Commonwealth Rehab Service (CRS) at a tool company for two years, and then I spent about 26 years working in sales and admin for Bearing Service. I was in a car accident after that and there was damage to my spine so I stopped working.
Back in the 50s Denise had to leave her family as a seven-year-old and stay in the hostel at CPL’s New Farm school to get treatment. Her family was from Toowoomba and there wasn’t any support out there. Then Denise went on to CPL’s Redcliffe centre.
I met Denise over a game of cards when we were in our 20s. We married in 1980 and this year Denise and I will be married for 39 years. When we decided to have a child we saw the best and worst reactions from family and friends. But our son, Brenden, grew to be a fine young man who has two degrees, two children and a good career. Denise says he has my looks and her brains!
This year, I am very proud to say we celebrated our granddaughter’s fifth birthday.
Looking back now, my biggest observation was that a lot of parents, especially mothers, used to think it was their fault that their child had cerebral palsy. Like they had done something wrong because of issues during pregnancy or birth. I really hope it is different now, because I always thought it was unfair for them to blame themselves.
If I could share one thing with parents of kids with disabilities, it would be to encourage their child to do the most they can by themselves. As I look back over the years, there have been many times when I’ve had to work harder than my colleagues to get ahead, and it has defined me.
As for our future, our aim is just to remain as active and as independent as we can.