Saturday, March 07, 2009


It was just a little outing but in my mind it was so much more. Joe wasn't feeling well yesterday and we had planned on going out on a 'date' ... just a jaunt over to Yonge Street to have a tea and people watch. But when he got up yesterday his voice had deepened and blurred and I knew he wasn't well. I took Wheetrans to work and Joe went back to bed.

When I got home Joe was all set to go out and I simply sent him back to bed. We have plans for the weekend that I knew he was looking forward to. I told Joe that I'd head out to pick up a few things in my power wheelchair. I left the apartment and was on my own down the hallway, leaving the building I headed over to the grocery store, I had a bag over my arm for shopping and a grin on my face.


In the mall I first went for a tea and sat sipping it while watching people stroll by. I kept glancing over to the chair where Joe usually sits to see if somehow he'd magically appeared. I don't much go out without Joe and his absence was not simply noticed, it was distrubing. I didn't finish my tea.

I finished up the shopping and headed straight back home. I had a little trouble negotiating the elevators all on my own. Like a comedy skit I'd push the button, back up to wait, but every time it came, the doors were just slightly too quick. Finally I had to ask someone for assistance.

As I rolled home, I thought about all the imagining I've done over the past year or two about the independance that the chair would give me. The ability to go out on my own. Do my own thing. Then I had an odd realization. Before my disability Joe and I did pretty much everything together too. The only difference was that I moved under my own steam not needing his assistance. We walked together but we were always together.

Somehow I had misremembered my life before. I had made it something different than it was in my mind. I had coloured my past with crayons of a different hue. Me before was precisely the same as me after. I hadn't altered much. I'd made much of small differences and conjured fantastical big differences - how odd. I'd really remembered and pictured, vividly, things that simply weren't true.

I wonder how much of my past is plagued with remembering wrongly, remembering selectively, or remembering wishfully? I wonder how many people, destroy the enjoyment of present circumstances with memories of a past full of false possibilities.

Home again. Shopping done. Something I thought would be a mammoth acheivement turned out just to be a lonely chore. Hmmmmm. And Hmmmmmm, again.


Roia said...

Nice insight, Dave. Certainly made me want to ponder the many myths I've created about my life. Thank you.

Andrea Shettle, MSW said...

I've never been in a wheelchair (not counting the handful of occasions that I've had the chance to try out a chair briefly just for kicks). But I've been on crutches a few times, and even more frequently with a cane. And every time I'm on crutches (not as often with a cane), I have trouble getting to the elevator doors on time before they close, both in my apartment building and also in the place I was working during some of those foot injuries. I don't always need assistance, but I have often missed the first elevator, or else needed to rush more than was good for the injured foot, in order to make it.

The magnetic lock next to the front door in my apartment building also drives me bonkers--worse than the elevators. Even when I don't need any walking aids at all, I sometimes don't manage to get from the lock where I wave my key to the door fast enough to open it before it automatically re-locks. And if I have any trouble at all with my foot that day, then I do usually end up needing assistance to get through the door. I did try sending an email to the apartment building people to complain about it but never received a reply. I suppose I should try again.

One Sick Mother said...

This is a very trite comparison, but I think it's kind of akin to living in New York City and never visiting the observation deck of the Empire State Building.

Then you move away and somehow regret that you no longer easily have the option to do so, even though you never chose to exercise that option when you had it every day. -if you know what I mean.

Lisa said...

Hi Dave,

So true.......and for so very long I constantly wished for my son's tracheostomy to come out and dreamed about the future without a piece of white plastic. Then only begun to realize I was purely missing the moments while it is in. He will still be the same little boy only he will be a face breather like the rest us.


Betsy said...

I think lots of us who are parents do the same thing - in the hustle and bustle and chaos of raising children, we long for a quiet weekend where we can read all we want, eat what we want, sleep when we want, etc.

And then in an instant, our children are grown, and those days are before us - and we are left longing for the past.

Its crazy how many places that look accessible are not - my daughter is in a wheelchair, and I'm constantly running ahead to push a button, run behind to grab her, and try to get her through the door before it closes, etc.

Add to that list bathrooms that barely fit a wheelchair with no space for a helper if needed, where you have to drive in and back out - ugh, the list goes on!

I think it should be absolutely mandatory that anyone designing anything "accessible" should have to live on wheels for a few months to see what the challenges REALLY are.

As an aside, I wrote about your "hole in the world" thoughts on my blog today, Dave, if you'd like to check it out! The post is called "Loving Dave Hingsburger!"


Heike said...

You do have independance thanks to the wheelchair. And you also have love thanks to Joe. And you deserve both!

Anonymous said...

Dave, since I know you're interested the history of institutions for people with intellectual disabilities,

I just now happened to stumble across a web site in the UK that shares the history of a few institutions there:

You can also find several links to various disability history museums, etc. on the web at

(You'll need to scroll down past the general disability studies links before you see the listing specifically for disability history)


Anonymous said...

Oh, another history site that might be of interest.

I wasn't even looking for history information per se (I'm actually looking for organizations, university centers, etc.) but have been stumbling across them anyway ...

Shan said...

Veeeeeery interesting post.