I had an interesting chat the other day with an elderly woman who was attending an event with her grandson. The pair of them were having a blast and clearly loved each other. They knew how to make each other laugh and they kept themselves quite entertained while waiting for the event to start. I was near them because we were corralled into the 'disabled seating area' so she with her wheelchair and me with mine were certain to meet each other.
When her grandson left to get some snacks from the snack bar I mentioned that he seemed like a nice young man. She exploded into pride about how much she loved him - what a wonderful young man he was - how fine a person he is becoming. She wasn't shy on the praise. I asked if she had other grandchildren and she paused and said, "Yes, but not like him."
Then she told me that she was only a recent convert to the use of a wheelchair. She had been stubborn and didn't want to give up walking. However, one day she realized that walking was giving up on her. She was slowly making decisions that were taking her out of her everyday routines. She was giving up her life simply because she refused to consider other ways of getting around. One day, while in her pharmacy, she went to the back where they had wheelchairs. She sat down in one, gave herself a push, and that was it. She got someone to help her find the right chair and her life opened up again.
Problem was that her family didn't react well to the chair. They thought that it was too soon for something so drastic, that she was giving up and becoming lazy, that the chair would make it difficult to get her from place to place. The only one to react differently was this one grandson who saw it as a whole new adventure. He throws her chair into the truck of the car and they go off places. She hadn't been to movies or to theatre or even to the mall for lunch for a very long time. Everything was available to her again.
"They feel sorry for me now because of the wheelchair, so now they visit less and spend less time with me," she said shaking her head. "It doesn't make sense because now I actually can go to the places that they've been inviting me to - and I haven't been able to go."
Her grandson got back with the snacks and she introduced us briefly, he shook our hands, said hello and then returned to his seat by his grandmother.
I wish a wheelchair was just a wheelchair and not an allegory for pity or sympathy or loss. She got her mobility back but lost much of her family. It doesn't make sense.
I only hope that his example will become their practise. But if it doesn't, she's still got a couple of precious things, her mobility and a grandson who's very good company.