So, I learned a few things about a wheelchair from hanging around with a 14 year old boy and his dad. The primary lesson is that a wheelchair is fun. That's right, fun. It ain't a tragedy. It ain't a cause for pity. Instead it's cause for mischief, play and feats of strength. To me it's simply a means of transportation. But I was wrong. It's much more than that.
It started while shopping in Zellers for soy milk. I kid you not. I was pushing myself and finding the work of pushing was very, very difficult. I didn't really notice because I've been wanting to get the chair tuned up for awhile now and I was thinking that it really needs that tune up. Then when the resistance was incredible I heard a giggle behind me. I glanced back and just caught a glimpse of Joseph's hand as it left the hand grip. I spun round and accused him of holding my chair back. Yep. It's fun a wheelchair.
Later, I felt the same kind of resistance but this time Joseph was beside me. Then Joe gave me a little nod to look down and I saw that Joseph was using his sneaker to grind the wheel to a halt. Yep. A wheelchair is a laugh riot.
At the museum Joseph offered to push my chair for awhile to give me a break. He's a strong kid, stronger than he looks, but I still was a little embarrassed ... I mean a little kid pushing a huge man so I pushed along to assist him. He insisted that I not push but just put my hands in. I should have guessed. Then we took off. I have never gone that fast in the chair, even going downhill. He ran as hard as he could and then took a turn. I swear we burned rubber. Yep. A wheelchair is a video game come to life.
I think that all this disability stuff has affected Joseph at least a little bit. He knew about why Tropic Thunder was being boycotted and talked about it right after getting in the car. Hell, I know people in the disability community who are clueless about the boycott. He is completely relaxed about the wheelchair and very aware of things like ramps, aisle widths ... he even came out of a bathroom and said, "You gotta check out the bathroom, it's got the best wheelchair stall I've ever seen in my life."
I hesitated to point out to him that his life ... is a bare 14 years, but I didn't. Even so, I figured that I was teaching him a lesson about how disability doesn't mean a loss of personhood or a loss of personality.
But he taught me something better.
A wheelchair is a very, very cool toy.