My daughter and I were getting ready to go to a concert. We had eaten a quick supper and she asked, “how do you want to get there?” It had been a mild December, so we could walk. But it was already dark. I haven’t yet ridden my Power Chair on sidewalks at night. “We can call a cab,” I decided. A company in town was offering wheelchair accessible taxis. “I can ride my Power Chair and hop right into the back of the cab,” I explained. For some reason, I was feeling tired and uneasy about going out. Looking to my right I saw my walker and said, “I miss those Walker Days.” I caught my daughter’s gaze as she suppressed a frown. I admitted, “I can’t believe I just said that!”
What was I saying? What could I possibly be missing?
Previously, I would drive, lifting the walker to place it behind the driver’s seat. Parking at a handicapped spot close to the entrance meant I could take out my walker and slowly make my way to the theater. Usually visiting the bathroom before the show started and then taking my seat. There was a time when this was do-able. When these activities involved a little bit of duress. Just enough struggle, but not so much to tire me out. I live with struggle. These days getting up from bed can be difficult. I think I was missing the days when the struggle involved walking. When the walker supported my weight enough that I could do it for a little bit. Now walking is so hard; it isn’t walking anymore,
“Well, you have five minutes to change your mind again,” she said with a grin. It was the night of the annual lecture that I help organize in honour of my late husband. As a family, we were preparing to go. It was very exciting; one of my stepdaughters was in town for the event. “Shall I go by Power Chair or drive in and take my walker?” There are pluses and minuses to either one and for the past hour I had been changing my mind at regular intervals. The pendulum swung once and I’d say, “I don’t like watching people react to the wheelchair.” When the pendulum swung low, I couldn’t decide. As it moved to the far side, I’d state, “I like using my legs.” We drove there. The walker was pulled from the van, I leaned on it and I pushed it past my son, who was holding open the door to the building. Once inside, I got tired of walking down the hall, turning to my daughter I asked her to pull me. I turned around, sat on the walker and she pulled me the rest of the way to the auditorium. I live with patient people.
That was a year ago. I have since decided that walking is very pedestrian……
This year I was talking to my stepdaughter before the event and told her “I’m taking the Power Chair, because I want to be free.” I smiled broadly, remembering how she had teased me last year for changing my mind so often. Freedom is relative. I meant I was free to move without making a huge physical effort. I was free! I chose to ignore other’s reaction to my wheelchair. I was also free to move myself around without having to ask others for too much help. Perhaps, I was freeing others from the stress of looking after me.