Susan Klein would do well on the talk show circuit.
She has a model’s figure, rusty brown hair, and
a contagious smile. And she can talk about all
the nineties’ issues: male commitment problems,
a woman’s biological time clock, single motherhood,
In her home, leaning against a wall is her walker.
Susan can walk only a few feet, just far enough
to get out of her car and retrieve her wheelchair
from the trunk. She has multiple sclerosis (MS).
But she doesn’t dwell on her disability. She’s
too busy - a single mother raising a five-year-old
kindergartner and working in her home office.
Susan Klein was brought up in the San Fernando
Valley in a well to do home. But then her parents
divorced and in her late twenties and her dad
became ill with cancer. After his death, she moved
to New York City with a boyfriend. They became
engaged and she was living the “good life.” But
then, she says without rancor, “we broke it off.
He was a workaholic and had a male commitment
She returned home to California and, in her mid-thirties,
with her biological time clock ticking, and no
marriage on the horizon, she decided to have a
child. “I wanted a child more than I wanted to
rush into any marriage,” she said. “So, I made
that happen. I got pregnant and had my daughter,
“Ideally,” she explains, “I would have rather
done it the regular way with my child having a
father. But I wanted a baby. And I’m fortunate.
I can afford to be a single parent.”
“Sure, I see kids and their dads together and
I feel kind of wistful. But I also think I’ve
given my daughter a great life. And I can’t worry
about everything. Every child grows up with something
they’re going to hate their parents for.”
When Susan was twenty-eight, she was on vacation
and began having problems walking. A neurologist
diagnosed her with MS.
“When my dad was sick with cancer,” she recalls,
“I was real involved with him and with the Wellness
Community (a cancer support group). What I loved
about it was everyone was really up, positive,
and involved in making their lives better.”
Susan bemoans the fact that there are no similar
MS support groups. The ones she has attended,
she found “terribly depressing and negative.”
“A bunch of women mostly, sitting around moaning,
complaining about how horrible things have happened
to them. I felt so depressed when I left, I chose
not go back. Certainly part of any support group
is to bitch and moan with people that understand
what you’re going through. But the other part
is to talk about how to make your life better
and how to make life work.”
She is still looking for a support group as positive
as the Wellness Community. “I’m not saying it’s
not out there,” she demurs, “but I haven’t found
a similar group for the wheelchair bound.”
Westlake, she says with some irony, is just too
perfect. It’s a bustling outdoorsy community with
people always out bike riding, walking, or jogging.
“I was here two months before I saw another person
in a wheelchair. There’s just a lack of visible
disability in Westlake,” she perceives. “People
look at me and stare.”
She loves her community and repeatedly emphasizes
how wonderful people have been. But still – “I
feel my disability moreso here than other places
I’ve lived.” So, if you know of or would be interested
in forming a support group for the wheelchair
bound in Agoura or Westlake, Susan Klein would
be happy to hear from you. E-mail her at: SUEAVA@AOL.COM.