“Are you okay?” my student asked concerned.
“Sure, why wouldn’t I be?” I responded in a confused tone but I knew why she asked.
“Oh, it’s just…because you’re sitting today,” she started to stutter as her voice got lower almost not claiming what she just said.
As I rolled my wheelchair to the front of the classroom under my desk I assured her, “Oh, yea, I brought my wheelchair today. I take it out sometimes on bad snow days. I’m fine. It’s okay.” Angelika’s face lit up. That was more important to me than how I felt. Her ease meant more than my unease at that moment. She went to sit in her chair as we prepared to start grammar class.
The way I felt inside was completely opposite. I don’t like taking my wheelchair to work, especially when everyone knows how bad I want to walk. In two years, I can count on my hand how many times I’ve taken it to class. I’m always walking with forearm crutches so when people see me in the wheelchair they get surprised and ask. It’s no big deal. I thank God they care.
In Michigan we’ve had a snowy winter recently. It’s the worst it’s been in a couple of years. While walking in the morning to my car last Thursday, I was unaware my right crutch hit an ice patch. We were having a winter storm that morning. My crutch gave out and my body twisted, I fell to the ground on my right hip. Thankfully, I was okay. My neighbor Jay saw me outside and came out quickly to help. He helped me get off the floor and walked me back inside. I’m the type who likes to think I can do everything anyone else can, but this was a wake-up call for me to take more precaution in the winter. So I’ve been taking the wheelchair out on icy days, even though I don’t like to. I’m just glad I didn’t hurt myself.
Previous to Angelika inquiring, my director asked how I felt several minutes before this. “If I throw my back out and need to bring my cane, it’s the same thing,” she said trying to make me feel better about taking a wheelchair. I appreciate that, but really, it’s not the same. I would much rather walk with one cane than use a wheelchair. For one, it’s much easier to put in and out of the car. My wheelchair is a manual one. I have to stand on my car and pop each wheel off and put them in the back seat, than fold it down and put in the base of the chair. And vice versa, after I arrive to my destination I have to put it back together all over again.
I got my director’s point though, and it was nice she was trying to comfort me in my discomfort. “Oh God, I hope I never see that” I laughed, trying to lighten things up in reference to her cane. I’m more sensitive to people having trouble walking because I’ve had so much.
I’ve been praying. I think this is about acceptance for me. I’ve come really far, maybe not as far as I’d like. But walking with nothing is a big goal considering the injuries I had. I believe it’s possible because with God all things are possible. It’s no fun taking a wheelchair out, but I feel grateful I can put it in and out of the car. I want to start seeing it more the way everyone else does, as okay!
Have you ever felt that? Has it ever been hard to accept something different about you? I’ve never accepted using a wheelchair. I guess that has been my motivation to walk but at the same time I have struggled with acceptance of myself because of it. I know it’s not a part of me. I mean, it’s not a part of my make-up or who I am. But often times I worry others can’t see past it. Or maybe it’s me who can’t. Although I’m not walking as well as I would like, I’ve come far. I’m trying to remind myself of that.
Has anyone ever reacted to your wheelchair, or difference (of any kind) in an interesting way? How did you respond?