Be really careful about how you read this.
Be really careful about how you respond to me.
I'm even uncomfortable writing this because I fear how people will react. But I want to be transparent about my life and since I don't take pictures, this blog is my personal record of my life.
It was my first day of retirement and it got off to a bad start. We'd stayed up past midnight watching 'Away' on Netflix and just before going to bed our smoke detector went off. Oh. My. Does that make a noise! Joe got out a stepstool and gingerly got up on it with me shrieking "Good God Don't Fall'. He was unable to do anything. The thing beeped in a pattern, one, short pause, three, longer pause, one, then a fairly long pause. We went to bed after shutting the bedroom door to block out as much sound as possible. We both had shitty sleeps.
Once up, we got the thing fixed and then faced the day. It was my first day of retirement and I had something special planned. I've been seeing a nurse every week and she's been teaching Joe how to do a treatment for my legs that has made me more stable standing and less of a risk when using the walker around the house. Three weeks ago, I started some leg and butt exercises that were aimed at getting me up and moving a bit more with my legs, not my wheels.
I had set it up in my mind that today I would go for a walk in the mall. I would roll in with my chair, Joe would carry in the walker, and then we'd go to a place in one of the very large stores where there are usually very few people. Sitting at my desk after that horrible sleep, I almost gave up the idea. But I asked Joe if he could fix my legs and if he was up to going out. I hadn't told him my plan, that was to be a bit of a surprise. He didn't understand why I wanted my walker brought along but he was tired and asked no questions.
We got to the area and there were more people there than I expected and again I almost gave up. I don't like to be watched or stared at. But, I locked my chair and stood up. I took the walker and instructed Joe to follow quickly behind me hoping if I fell, I'd fall back into the chair. I looked up, set a goal, and headed towards it. My walk was slow but my gait was steady, I made it to my goal, turned around, and walked back. About halfway to the start point, I flagged. I had to stop several times to catch my breath and relight the pilot light on my determination. I made it.
Just before I sat down a group of three very young teens bolted over to that area playing some sort of catch and release game. They came to a stop when they saw me. I could see their eyes take in the whole scene. Me, a huge man, with a walker, and a wheelchair just behind me. They started laughing but slowly the laughter died, it was like they took a second to realize that this was a sacred moment for me and the wind left them, then they left me alone.
Why am I worried how you will read this and how you will respond to it.
Decades ago I worked in a school with kids who had physical, not intellectual, disabilities. One of them was a wheelchair user and after one summer he came back walking with the use of crutches. I walked with him to his first class and when he went in everyone applauded and cheered him.
That made me uncomfortable.
My walk today doesn't mean anything really.
It doesn't mean that for those few minutes when I was up and walking that my status had changed, I wasn't more worthy, I wasn't fundamentally changed.
But walking has become, to many, the deal-breaker. "I survived a terrible accident and I was left 'confined' to a wheelchair." "I can't imagine not being able to walk."
Walking is like the very limit of human imagination - there is nothing of value beyond it.
What I did today was a different type of exercise. In fact, I was slow and my steps were labourious - my movement in a wheelchair are quick and graceful in comparison.