Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Look out!

Even when I could walk, I walked with my eyes on the ground.

I remember walking into a big column when I was going to see Camelot at one of my siblings' high school. It was my high school, too, but not then.

When I was trying to learn hand controls so I could keep driving after FA rendered my legs unreliable, the instructor kept telling me to watch where I was going not where I was.

It didn't help much because no matter where I was watching, my arm muscles are spastic and almost as unreliable as my legs. I think he learned this when we were on a busy street in D.C, with four lanes going our way. I was in one of the left lanes when my hand steered more than intended and shot us straight across into the far right lane. Thankfully, there were no cars coming then and there was a parking lot I made it to before collapsing. That was the day I stopped thinking I could use hand controls.

When I ride horses these days, the hardest thing to do is look ahead, not look at my hands.

When I am out with Claren, I look down so I can chat with her.

Perhaps then what is most surprising about the posts in front of my building is that I have never run into them ... until today.

Luckily, Dad shouted at me and I stopped right as the post slid past my front wheel and just kissed my knee.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Who am I?

Finding a wheelchair-using hero is a a even tougher than finding a non-redhead superheroine.

There is Prof. X, who is quite cool, but he is bald and can read minds. That is so not me.

Beneath my cynical shell beats a naïve little dude. An example: My second day in North Carolina for my first real job, this guy comes up to me in the store while I was buying batteries and says: Hey, I saw you moving in today.

I remember thinking that I moved in yesterday but instead I say hi. He then asks me to help him as his car has a flat and says he'll pay me back as we are neighbors. I reply: Sure, it's a good thing you caught me now because I just went to the bank.

I drive him to a gas station where he buys with my $40 cigarettes and a tire "they are holding for him."

Then he asks me to take him to the home of a guy who will switch the tires. He then asks for my last $10 to pay the friend putting on the tire and a ride to another house.

In my defense, by this time I knew I was being scammed but was not sure how to end it. But he did not want anything else so I left.

There is also Oracle, the tough-as-nails hacker/computer junkie, who is Batman's eyes and ears. Oracle unfortunately is a girl, Batgirl actually.

I called the police and they came out but the guy did not do anything illegal.

I have one other wheelchair superhero, he's not a comic-book hero, but was in a short-lived Fox TV series: M.A.N.T.I.S. in which Carl Lumbly played a paralyzed doctor who donned an exo-skelton called the Mechanically Augmented Neuro-transmitter Interactive System that allowed him to kick bad-guy ass.

A plus, Carl Lumby has done voices on superhero cartoons, and was in Taxi and tons more. He rocks.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

In Purell we trust

Mom and I met one of my sisters for lunch at a place called Noodles and Company halfway between Richmond and Falls Church and surrounded by big-box stores.

It was a nice meal, but I had to use the restroom, which is always a little sketchy. That is just what it was, not bad but a little sketchy.

There was only one toilet, no urinals, so after struggling in I locked the door. Then sat down on a public toilet. No hovering or balancing for me. I figure whatever kills me will not be toilet germs.

I am hoping this is true because after I got back into my chair, I went to wash my hands. The soap, though, was in a wall dispenser hung above the towel dispenser. Totally out of reach.

Monday, February 16, 2009

I scare easy

When I was still driving, I was terrified that a “local cop's cherry top” would scare me so much I would crash ... or run over someone. More than once I would circle back the way I came to make sure there were no dead bodies. Not that I felt anything, I just liked to be sure. Fortunately, I no longer drive, but I still scare.

This is no surprise to anyone who knows me, from the nephew who leaped out at me at the beach and said something about scaring me “out of my tweezers” to Claren who nearly sent me plunging out of my wheelchair when she goosed me as we were playing.

Tonight, my 5-year-old niece learned about my jumpiness.

She and her little brother have discovered the knobs and handles on the back of my wheelchair are perfect places to climb up, especially since they can duck down below the wheelchair back and I can hardly see them.

I heard someone run past me when I was getting in my chair, but I didn't pay any attention because not paying attention during transfers is how I fall.

Or I fall (almost anyway) because just when I lean into the back of my chair, a voice in my ear shouts “Uncle Matt.”

Thursday, February 12, 2009

No, really, I hurt myself today

The mark has all but disappeared, but this morning I was pretty sure my thumb was going to fall off.

I had slipped a few days ago and was saved from a nasty fall by my T-shirt, the back of which hooked on to my wheelchair joystick and kept me from falling to the ground.

This salvation was not without a little snag. My big bulk bent the controller down into an unreachable spot. I had to bend it back by hand, which further weakens the metal part holding it to the chair. This is how the first controller broke.

In the bathroom today, I decided the controller was still a little low and decided to bend it back up a little more.

I put my left thumb right next to the metal piece holding it to the chair and bent it back with my right hand. Too much.

My thumb was trapped; it almost immediately started to throb and hurt. I thought I might throw up (sorry, E). I had this image of firefighters using like a mini Jaws of Life on me and my chair. I'd be OK but the chair would be ruined.

I tried to bend it back down to free my thumb, but I did not want to bend it too much. As a result, I had trouble bending it at all. All the time, I could almost feel the molecules of my thumb bone being ground to dust.

Finally, I bent it enough to get my thumb out. It had these two big black marks.

And now they're gone, too. I have no proof of my injury, no scar, no thing. It might as well have not happened.

Stupid chair, if you're going to hurt me, leave a mark so I can get pity.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Rolling on air

I hit the down button the elevator at lunch, and BING, an elevator popped open. It was the one I broke in May.

It looked good: no shattered glass, and ran fine.

Now, of course, I am wondering what I will break next.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

I want to ride

I was reading a column in the latest issue of the Muscular Dystrophy magazine Quest. This guy came up with what he thought was a good reply to those who try to show him pity over something he can't do.

“You know, when there is a thing that I can do, I’m glad that I can do it. But when it’s something that I can’t do, I consider it just as well that I don’t have to.”

He went on to write about focusing on what you can do and doing them well rather than wishing you could do more. Whatever.

I wonder what he'd say about my trike riding.

I have never ridden well. I get passed by walkers; I have to stop a lot, my chain falls off, my foot pops off a pedal. But it is exercise for my legs, and Claren is with me.

I went for a ride today and it was pretty awful. My legs could hardly make one revolution on the pedals before they slipped and pushed the pedals backward. I stopped on the bike trail for a moment and this guy walked past me and told me I had to lose my pouch. I am not even sure what he meant but I so wanted to yell at him that he should feel free to suggest something I should do when he is in a wheelchair and not one fucking second before. Wow, I am bitter and defensive.

I don't want to give the trike up. I want to do it, but not if it takes me half-an-hour to ride half-a-mile. I will never "consider it just as well that I don’t have to.” But maybe I should.

It is not the agony of victory so what gives?

I am trying to remember whether injured hockey players go on the injured reserve or the disabled list.

I played a little hockey on the driveway last night with my niece, nephew and their dad. I even was on the winning team. But a few hours after the celebration (complete with chocolate peanut-butter chip cookies) ended, I developed a searing pain across my back. It could be something awful, like the first stage of some necrosis or perhaps kuru. More likely, however, I just strained some muscle when I was cross-checking people with my wheelchair.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Nothing good

I have been sitting here most of the night trying to write something on some topic that would be funny and sad and thoughtful and stellar and help people understand things and not be sad.

When I wrote this line I decided to bag it for the night on the theory that I and my legion of readers do not need to read these words, not tonight: "Except I do fall. AND I hurt."

I finally gave up and read this.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Thanks a lot, bossman

Imagine having to take things in and out of a backpack while you are wearing it.

That is what having to use a wheelchair bag is like. I hate it. People, even strangers on an elevator, zip it closed or close it more than I like, sometimes without even asking.

It is even worse on high-backed chairs like my power chair. I can't see the bag or pull it around enough to get things in it. I grab things out and put things in by feel. More often than not, though, I miss the bag and have to get Claren to pick up what I dropped.

Today, I was sure it would be different. I was packing my scarf, hat and gloves into my bag as I was leaving work. I knew they weren't in yet, but then one of the big bosses walked by and said:Let me help you and then: There you go.

I thanked him and headed on, but I felt my chair roll over something. I looked down and it was my scarf and a glove. I backed up so Claren could get them and I saw my other glove on the floor.

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