[A note from Karen: Sean was kind enough to write this piece, last fall, and I am posting it now as a reminder of the great times we had, and in hope of more great times to come, after this pandemic ends.]
It was my joy to undergo a great adventure between November 5th and 12th of 2019.
This adventure was a week in the company of an outstanding mentor and friend, Ms. Karen Lynn-Chlup—seven days of laughter and learning, of almond milk and acting, of joy and excitement throughout the state of New Jersey.
Following a period of recuperation after the long flight from Los Angeles, on Wednesday the 6th the excitement began.
It’s been my joy to serve as adjunct professor at Kean University in Union, New Jersey, since 2004. Ms. Karen came to my World Civilization class, on Thursday, and set my students’ hearts and spirits on fire.
She told with excitement and detail of her work to rebuild her body under the able guidance of dance sage, Al Gilbert; the sweat-filled struggle to find genuine employment after being labeled and left to rot by experts, culminating in the first lawsuit under the rehab act, and the publication of her first novel, The Broken Hoof.
The students were speechless with excitement. But the adventure was just beginning.
The next day, we ventured to the New Providence Library for the next experience.
Over the last six years, I have also served as both a volunteer and a paid assistant in the Paper Mill Playhouse’s Theatre for Everyone program, an exciting movement for young people with and without disabilities and their families, led by Ms. Leslie Fanelli, another dear friend.
Karen and I spent an hour participating in movement exercises and the sign language song that begins and ends the program. Karen observed my performance—with me dressed as Queen of the World in a wig and pearls. We dined together later, laughing and learning from great women.
On Saturday we interacted with brain tumor survivor Beth Rosenthal. Karen stood like a giant of spirit, helping, healing, and restoring all.
Sunday, I had the immeasurable bliss of visiting Professor Yvonne Singer, a proud woman with cerebral palsy, and the love of my life. Karen gave out energy and excitement as we joked and restored each other, sharing encouragement and stories.
All too soon, Tuesday morning came. It was time for Karen to return to the West Coast.
Another great experience was in the pocket of history.
I remain deeply grateful, and look forward to our next joy-filled jaunt.
Sean P. Dineen is an Adjunct Professor of History at Kean University and an expert on the history of disabilities and disability rights. He is a native of New Jersey. A published playwright, his personal interests include theatre and popular culture.