I saw her and my jaw dropped.
Well, that's not quite true. I saw her chair and my jaw dropped. She was in a power chair! A power chair!! I guess that's not, in and of itself, uncommon but we were at the airport in the departures area. Her chair wasn't one of those nifty little chairs that fold up wallet size. It was a big ol' power chair, just a tad smaller than mine. I couldn't imagine travelling with my power chair. I simply don't have the courage.
I desperately wanted to chat with her about her experiences and to learn how to deal with transport particularly with airlines.
So ... I did.
She was an elderly woman, someone who had aged gracefully in a life lived well and kindly. She understood my curiosity. She answered in a voice that had a slight tremor and was breathy as if it took extra energy to speak. She seemed to welcome the intrusion and was very willing to speak of her travels and travails.
As it turned out she was not at all new to disability as some of the elderly are. She had never known walking. Had never had the experience of typical movement. She had travelled the ramp from Childhood to Adulthood on wheels. After we exchanged bit of our histories with disability, we returned to the topic of travel. She was just about to tell me of how she arranged travel with a power chair when she was joined by a big strapping man. Her son.
As an aside, I sometimes wonder if small women, mothers of large men, tall with powerful shoulders and strong, long legs, ever wonder at the idea of having birthed creations of such size and strength. Anyways, he came into the conversation, then took it over. She fell silent as he talked about the chair and the airlines and the attitudes and the process and procedures for gtting about.
She gave me a look.
Mothers are good at looks that speak in paragraphs.
Her look said, 'I know, I know, but let it go.'
Probably a lifetime of being a woman, of being a disabled woman at that, had led to an expectation of, if not acceptance or comfort with, being silenced. So he talked of his experiences, not knowing that his story is and was not the same as hers. He spoke of transporting the chair, she would have spoken of the chair transporting her. The concerns of one do not equal the fears involved in the other.
I had to head to my gate, they to theirs. As she pulled away she stopped and put her hand on my arm, a brief touch of affection, 'thank you' she said. As they left, I heard him say, 'What did you thank him for?'
She answered him ...