Photo description: One large purple bruise and one smaller red one on left arm.
We stopped on our journey down to Butler, PA, where I will be lecturing tomorrow, to shop at the large Premium Outlet mall in Grove City. We had a list of things we wanted to pick up and as luck would have it they were at stores at either end of the huge mall. Because of the Parapan games in Toronto we were unable to rent a wheelchair van so I was using my manual chair. The distances were daunting and I wouldn't have been able to do more than one or two stores without Joe there to help push me and help me get through the doors, none of which have auto door openers.
Even with the long distances, we were having a really nice time. We were lucky in our purchases and managed to find really good deals and stores that weren't too busy. Once done we decided that instead of me going all the way back to the car, Joe would walk back to the car and drive over to pick me up. I spied an empty disabled parking spot right across from where we had been discussing our plans. I suggested I go and wait there and then Joe could pick me up there, it would be better than him stopping on the roadway alongside the sidewalk where we were presently.
Once in place, I wished Joe a good walk and got out my phone to check emails and such. I glanced up just in time to notice a woman, looking at me and stepping off the sidewalk heading my way. I braced myself. This is almost never a good start to any interaction.
She arrived and asked me, in a whisper like we were speaking secretly, "That man who was pushing you, is he your helper?"
Now I need to ask the entire gay movement to forgive me. I could have clarified that Joe was my husband, but sometimes I feel like I'm different enough without adding another layer to the cake. I said, carefully choosing my words, "He helps me, yes."
She moved closer.
"I saw the bruising on your arm. Are you safe? Are you OK?"
My first reaction was anger. But my second reaction slowed down and stopped the angry response and replaced it with, "Oh, thank you for your concern, I appreciate you checking in with me, these bruises are from a fall on the bus, I really am OK."
"A fall?" she asked not believing me.
"Yes, it's from my attempts to get up, more than the fall itself."
"OK, good, sorry to have bothered you," she said.
"No, no, it took courage to do what you did, if I'd needed help, what you did could be life saving."
She smiled, nodded, and said, "Someone asked me once. It changed my life." I noticed her blink away tears that were forming in her eyes, "I always ask, even though some people are angered by it."
I watched her walk away. Then realized I was blinking away tears in my own eyes.