October 26, 2007
Fellowship of the Cane
The latest accessories for my journey, my walking boot, my cane and my crutches.
"Now Hoku, try doing a bit of walking without that boot on...it will hurt and swell some but in a few weeks it will be a lot better...yes, yes use your cane for balance and try not to put your full weight on it as you are walking along..."
And I was released to go back to work. Six weeks of "disability" has taught me a lot... Now I thought that I was enlightened regarding the disabled and their difficulties, but I truly had no idea how life really is day in and out with a "handicapped" placard hanging from your car visor and a cane in our hand...After all I was with my mother for her nearly twenty year struggle with Parkinson's'...14 of those years undiagnosed... not that a doctor's stamp would have changed anything...
Mom embraced life in a wheelchair early on. She figured out that she could go a lot further and live life just a little faster utilizing wheels rather than her stumbling feet. She put her clumsiness down to her weight, a notoriously bad back and pinched nerves. That all contributed, Im sure but Diabetic Neuropathy and Parkinson's were the real culprits, and a chair didn't aggravate that. I saw the chair as a way to keep from exercising and a "giving up" of mobility. Laziness in the beginning, and a burden later as I damaged my own back hauling her and it out of my car. Once loaded up,she scooted down store aisles and parking lots at dangerous speeds. It must have felt very freeing... but the reality was she was trapped in that chair and eventually, a bed in a nursing home. Her frustration must have been a horror.
I have felt the pain of feeling trapped as I wore my boot and tried to do the activities that make up my daily life. Because I am too large for a woman's size and the man's was a tad too long, the steel supports interfered with my knee making getting up off of lower set seat a challenge. I have gotten "stuck" in a seat at a Taco Bell, on a supposed "handicapped" size toilet in one of the four rooms we had at the hotel in New Albany (we were moved four times in four days, until we got a room that had proper "handicapped accommodation" we got free nights for the improper ones...)My boot got caught in a threshold and I fell to the floor, alone and I couldn't get up without struggling to get the boot off then pull myself up. Countless times Woody had to rescue me. I went without it in the house as the pets were afraid of it, and it cut off my circulation...
My induction into the "Fellowship of the Cane" has slowed me down. It has also made me conscious of the pity and self consciousness that people feel around the disabled. People have treated me like I am retarded, talked around me and shouted at me as though I were deaf. Even tonight at Catholic Church, people either pushed past me oblivious to my situation, or looked through me. My broken foot with the boot does not fit inside the pew well and I cant move it out of the way when the kneeler drops. I got "dropped on " a few weeks ago. I flipped it back up and the people were annoyed. I now sit on the aisle but get kicked as people walk down the aisle for the Eucharist.Trust me I dont stick out very far. They just dont look. Its been a real struggle even in a church full of old disabled people. I think they see a younger person and cant see the issue...I struggle to get into places where I can sit and prop it up. I have looked with loathing as cars with no handicap placard park in the special spaces, leaving me to struggle to park and walk extra steps in pain.
The worst was when the special motorized shopping cart just stopped dead, fully loaded with my grocery shopping and me, in the middle of the local Walmart. I hobbled up a stock clerk who was just mortified and got me a cart and helped me get to the check out all the while saying.."Gee what if you couldn't have gotten up to get me?" Indeed....
I also understood the harrowing difficulties disabled folks have at my work. "thisplace" is great about hiring a wide range of people...young, old, black, white, Muslim,(in the Bible Belt)Christian. From no experience but smart and want to learn, to all the experience and wants to be a worker bee..ect...and disabled people. A man in a wheel chair, a lady who struggles with Dwarfism, and several others who are defiantly challenged. But the man with the broken ankle in the chair quit after two weeks on crutches as he couldnt manage the slippery marble floors. The Tiny lady has a step stool in the downstairs ladies room that repeatedly gets "borrowed" even with a sign glued to it saying "do not remove from this area"...she needs it to use the sink. To the man in the wheel chair...he struggled with the parking lot, the security doors and the bathrooms that are truly not in compliance but try to be...He had many issues but he quit the needed job after he couldnt manage the security doors (he dropped his swiper card couldn't get it and basically got stuck out in a deluging rain and was soaked to the skin and had to sit in that all day) He had a fight with his probation officer (another story) about quitting and later, in a grossly depressed state, blew his brains out...)People are still trying to get over that.
I stayed home as long as I could, and certainly have it better than those folks. From 100 percent paid leave to people on my team doing everything they can to help me. My work is not as stressful as the day shift and I dont have to walk fast. But I do have to walk, and can see the difficulties others have.
I have asked God to help me. I found myself saying that I dont think I could do this forever, and whining about my little issues. I have learned what a wimp I am in general and as this episode winds down and my mobility is returning, I want to focus on the good things and bless God for everything that comes my way. Perhaps that is the lesson that I need to grab ahold of from this period in my life... That the Fellowship of the Cane is all around me. I need to be more aware of the difficulties others have and not be guilty of the insensitivity that others have shown to me. And I need to not be so afraid of the future.