Wheels

My enunciation is getting rough. The letter “s” is my particular nemesis. I slur and lisp so badly, I have stopped using plural forms, and I avoid contractions. This afternoon, though, my sloppy “s” saved the day.

By 4:00, it felt like everything that could go wrong had already happened. A scheduling error left me without a caregiver, Pickle threw up after eating too much of the food that our parrot Jasper enjoys tossing to him, and the taxi I had booked way in advance never arrived to take me to a doctor appointment.

However, I didn’t want to end the day this way. I simply refused to let the sun set on this note. You see, I have a mindset that has led to me being labelled naive and unrealistic, but I can’t seem to shake it. I suffer from a relentless optimism, a belief that it is never too late for things to get better. Maybe that really does make me naive, but I like to describe myself with such words as “resilient,” “resourceful,” and “dauntless” instead.

Consequently, when my new cab arrived bearing a kindred spirit, I was delighted but not surprised. Every day holds some shred of happiness if only you remember to look for it. Doju, my driver, also had a rough start to his day. The cab he usually drove was out of commission, so his boss saddled him with the taxi outfitted as a wheelchair van… a vehicle full of equipment Doju had never seen before.

Anxious not to mislead me, as soon as he parked at the curb, he confessed, “I’ve never worked with a wheelchair van. I don’t know exactly what to do.” His anxiety aggravated his speech impediment, and I could tell he was now embarrassed on multiple fronts.

“That’s OK,” I replied, not bothering to hide my slur over the contraction; you have to be willing to give if you’re going to get anywhere important. “Let’s figure it out together.”

And we did. Rather quickly.

We fell right into conversation once we hit the road. His stutter grew less pronounced as I waited with patience to hear him out. He got the hang of my own impediment, and then it was easy to talk and listen. We shared chocolate chip cookies I had in my purse (welcome to my life in the Clinic weight maintenance program; must love calories), and relaxed into one another’s company. It ends up Doju has a wicked sense of humor.

“Rachel, you are just great. Here’s my card. Call anytime,” he said.

“You are so sweet!” I replied, taking his card.

“Oh, no, you misunderstand,” he grinned. “You may call me anytime, but I never promised to answer. I think I will see your number fill my call log and just click delete, delete, delete…”

It ends up both stuttering and slurring disappear in laughter.

Stuck in traffic, I learned he had been born in Tibet, but was whisked away so quickly to a safer patch of earth that he cannot remember his home. Despite this, and knowing he can never return, he chose not to tell his story as a sad one. Instead, the tale he shared was about love and accepting loss. I was amazed, not for the first time, at how deeply our most distant brothers and sisters can speak the language of our own messy hearts.

Traffic crawled, and I knew I would miss my appointment by a half hour, but the day was still salvaged in my eyes. As we sat on the glimmering hot road, Doju marveled at the brilliant sunshine after such a rainy spring. I pointed out the riot of colorful flowers spilling out of gardens lining the street.

There were so many words neither of us could manage to say, but still, we chose to speak to each other. We chose to see roses.

Far From FDR

Lately, I’ve been worrying a lot about my identity. So much is changing at what feels like breakneck speed. My body in particular is alien to me. I swing between thinking I am an ALS research guinea pig, a robot incorporating new mechanisms to extend the life of what is clearly a junker, or, most recently, a plain old invalid.

My sister is not OK with this.


Me: Am I an invalid?

Laura: Rachel, what are you talking about? They haven’t had invalids since FDR. Besides, I don’t we are supposed to use that word anymore.

Me: Oh… then what am I?

Laura: What you’ve always been. You’re a woman with pursuits.


It was pretty unexpected, a little Victorian, and a lot perfect. I remembered then that I’m more than braces, machines,  and physical therapy exercises. Maybe I’m not exactly what I’ve always been like Laura said, but I’m also not less than I was. And as far as pursuits go, I still chase dreams. Now, though, I’m racing after them in a 400 lb vehicle… I like my chances.

 

 

 


Disclaimer: No offense intended towards FDR, who, according to my grandma, totally rocked.


 

Reality Check

“Honey, whether or not you accept help doesn’t change the fact that you need it.”

 

I received this great advice from a nurse as I struggled to accept all the new braces I need to keep my feet flat enough to bear weight. As I try to maintain my independence, I know her words will be helpful to me.