[*][OMG I really wasn’t going to whine about my ankle but this has been a week.]
It’s so easy to live an everyday life, oblivious to the special challenges that face others in our midst.
This is America: no one goes hungry, right? Not until we hosted one of Tigger’s friends for a few months, did I learn that you have to have an income to sign up for
SNAP. How does an 18 year old stay in school after his parents kick him out? He sleeps in his friends’ car or even under bridges, until he finds a friend whose family will take him in, even though they know his history.
This is America: everywhere in public is handicap accessible, right? Not until I broke my ankle in January, did I find out the impact of the little obstacles I didn’t know were there. I feel no right to b**** about access, since my stint as a wheelie is temporary. [*][Or at least, I have to re-start paying copays at the orthopedist at the beginning of May.]
However, it does help to vent a little.
Van accessible parking spaces are great. I can open the car door wide enough to put out the walker, and there’s a ramp up to the sidewalk right up at the end of the stripes. The ramp isn’t so useful when there’s a bank of snow between the plowed parking lot and salted sidewalk, though. [*][Stupid anger-tears worked better the next day when the bank had turned to ice, then the cheerful oh-by-the-way style request when it was merely snow.]
I actually make a point to use the public restrooms before I leave to go home or after I arrive from home, cause we don’t have grab bars at home. This weekend was the first time I encountered blue goo when I grabbed the bar, though. I wondered whether the thoughtful, frequent cleanings include the underside of the grab bars? It helped to discover the source of the goo - the foam soap dispenser was right over the grab bar, and drips coalesced back into the original blue of the soap. At least the goo was by definition clean. [*][Bonus, this particular restroom had a sink, towel and soap dispensers in the handicap stall. The main part of the room was under construction, with one of the two soap dispensers, two of the six sinks and all of the towel dispensers out of use.]
The ADA established the required number of handicapped spaces in parking lots as a ratio to the number of spaces and size of the building. But maybe an orthopedist’s office could have a few more than normal? And, maybe install one of those nifty push button door openers?
I’ve been treated so sweetly by everyone around me, but this has taught me that what you think might be helpful might not be. Like that time I was half leaning on the door to my office building as I held it open, and I almost lost my balance when a helpful worker pulled it more open behind me. I have learned to ask when I need help (or I’m just too damn weary), and to smile sweetly and say thank you for the help when I didn’t ask. I’m thinking that kind of gets old for people who live on wheels.
Flar, Eclipse, Knight, Ro, and my grown sons, Tigger and Critter have been incredible. Flar has been a constant provider, caretaker, and even comfort-cleaner, not just get-by cleaner while I've needed so much help at worst and at best couldn’t pull my share. For the entire month of February, this darn winter took away the hot water in our kitchen, and the heat has been off in the that part of the house since Christmas.
Eclipse has pitched in to help Flar when I couldn’t, and even just kept me company when I was exhausted and listened to me whine. Tigger and Critter cheerfully spoiled me with fetch and carry whenever I just wanted to sit, and Flar reassured me about asking for help instead of trying to do too much and wear myself out.
Mom and Dad even helped out with a practical bell and basket and a cheerful set of streamers for my knee walker.
Knight bought me a knee walker, and he’s been absurdly complimentary about my attitude. Ro has consistently encouraged me to try what I've thought was beyond my reach. She even got me to bowl today - even before they brought me the ball ramp. But the best is the two nights a week I get to stay over in their basement: nights of level rolling household entry: nights of everything is easy.
The rest of the week, my biggest challenge of each day is entry and exit from my own home. When I first broke my ankle, Flar drove me everywhere. He would drive the car around to the front of the house, help me down the step from the front door to the porch, then the step down to the sidewalk. He would spot me along the sidewalk as I crutched along to the car, and drive me to and from work.
In order to get back behind the wheel, I needed (1)
the cast to replace the post-surgery bandaging, (2)
a way to get down the steeper step at the back door, (3)
a way to get from the back door to the garage and (4)
a way to get me and the walker into the car.
The darn icy, snowy winter delayed my attempts after I got the cast, as we waited until the ice melted from the back door area.
I mastered the last skill first, discarding the “put the walker in the back seat then hop to the front seat” method in favor of putting the walker into the car after me and settling into the seat beside me. I am not built for that much hopping.
I managed fairly well at lowering myself down the steeper step, and once I started using the doorknob as a convenient handle, I was able to get back up even more easily.
The hardest bit is getting into and out of the garage. We have four steps leading up to the garage from the nice, flat sidewalk. Or, we have a narrow and bumpy path beside the garage, which is made of concrete pavers that have cracked and heaved into a treacherously non-level course. One side is bounded by brick edging which leans into and out of the path; the other by a bed of ivy. The frequent rains and snow showers this winter have kept the soil of the ivy bed very soft.
I’ve only fallen once on the brick path, on the way in. [*][“Hi, I fell. I’m on my butt by the back door; can you come help?”]
I almost fell once on the way out. [*][That was the day that Flar swept off a light dusting of snow and followed me up just in case. Just as I started to tip over, he steadied me firmly from behind. “I’ve got you.”]
When there is someone at home to help me, it takes me a twelfth the amount of time to get up and down the stairs. I need help to get the walker up or down after me, though. Tonight I managed to get it down myself, as Flar hovered protectively just in case.
Once I’m inside the house, I can generally get around to anywhere on the ground floor. [*][That is, unless you count the library. But I have a pretty steady backlog of reading material piled up in the bedroom right now.]
I can thank my father-in-law for this. When we were remodeling the house, he was the one who suggested we do away with the steps up from the
jacuzzi room to the back hall. I don’t even remember whether there were one, two or three steps. When Knight bought me the knee walker, his only stipulation was that I was not allowed to cry “whee!” and roll full-tilt down the ramp. [*][Which is why I regularly call out “whee” when I’m free rolling on level ground.]
For 21 years and counting, I have yet to miss that particular stair.
This is quite a learning experience for me, being a temporary wheelie. I now realize how little I really understand about the daily challenges faced by people every day in our country. This is just another lesson for me in humility, and the importance of letting them teach me what they want me to know.
This has been an entry for The Real LJ Idol
writing competition: the Final Season, Topic 2 : The Missing Stair