Santa's sleigh had nothing on us. The car took nearly half an hour to pack. I got in, then the wheelchair was loaded into the trunk, the bags and bags and bags of Christmas gifts were loaded in and around the chair. The back seat head our suitcases, more bags of gifts, and tucked into the corner one, now very tall, teen aged boy. We were on our way to Ottawa and we'd just picked Joseph up when I announced that I had to go pee. Joseph, Mike's son and oldest child, was hungry and we could get two things accomplished, drain me and fill him up.
The decision to go pee wasn't made easily. I knew that by stopping, it meant unpacking all the gifts, getting the chair out, then repacking the chair and the gifts around it. But sometimes one makes a decision out of pure necessity. I'm getting older - and everyone knows there is a reason older men never wear beige pants. So, I had to go, we had to stop.
Joseph helped Joe get the gifts out and then the chair out. I hopped in and we went into Walmart. I went straight tot he bathroom, Joseph went straight to MacDonalds. All was accomplished. We headed back to the car, him full, me dry, the world was good. I then got into the car and sat and waited while the chair was reloaded and the gifts, which had been moved from the trunk to the body of the car, were moved back to make space again.
A creeping sense of guilt took me over. When they got back in the car I said, to myself in a stage whisper, 'The only time I have difficulties with having a disability is when it inconveniences others.' I said it and I meant it. All the work it took to get the chair out and then in again at that moment bothered me. I don't take the work that my disability places on Joe's shoulders, and in this case Joseph's too, for granted. The words were out of my mouth and in the air.
All Joseph said was 'What?' with a kind of incredulous tone of voice. Joe never said anything. I knew that I'd made them both uncomfortable. I'd placed on them the feelings that I imagined they were having, I'd made them both into people they weren't. Neither, clearly, had been as bothered by stopping as I thought they might have been. My issue became their issue. That wasn't fair.
I wonder if sometimes I, and maybe others, imbue into the world attitudes that aren't there. I wonder if we off load our own feelings into the way we perceive others feelings? I wonder if sometimes I am the source of the attitudes I perceive around me. I try to be 'jouranlistic' in how I see the world, but I wonder if that's even remotely possible. I don't know. But I do know that I got this one wrong and made others uncomfortable. I'd invited others to my pity party and they didn't come.
Maybe a car stuffed with wrapped presents had another gift that didn't need unwrapping.