The Rock, Part 2

In our garage, I found two crowbars, an old string hammock, and a variety of bricks and pavers. After several trips to carry everything to the corner of the yard, I tackled the rock.

Prying the rock up with one crowbar, I jammed the other into the small opening I’d made, as far apart as I could. Once the rock was high enough, I shoved a paver under its edge. Bit by bit, it rose. I spread the hammock on the ground on the far side of the rock. Then, with the end of a crowbar in each hand, I made my final attack. The rock inched upward, wobbled, and toppled over onto the hammock.

Success!

Folding the hammock over the rock, I brought the metal rings at each end together. One had a piece of old rope tied on, so I threaded it through the other ring, braced myself, and pulled. Nothing. I pulled harder. Closing my eyes, I gritted my teeth and gave it my all. You can guess what happened next.

From my humiliating position on the ground, I hurled the broken bit of rope away, picked myself up, and went in the house for an ibuprofen.

Outside, the rock crouched immobile in its cocoon of hammock.

More later.

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The Rock

Some days everything seems symbolic. The rock in our front yard was in that category last week. Maybe it still is. Maybe it always will be.

The rock was sitting in the southwest corner of our yard when we bought the house four years ago. Good-looking stone, smooth and rounded, about the length of my arm.

Then I decided to move it to the other side of the yard. I wanted it centered in a triangle of dirt we planned to turn into a garden. Surely I could roll the thing that distance.

“Ha,” David said. “I want to see you try.”

So I tried. From every direction, with all my might. It didn’t even twitch.

That’s where the symbolism began.

More later.

The Help

With temperatures climbing into the 90s, David and I went to Lowe’s to buy a ceiling fan. As he undid his seatbelt and worked his feet around and down onto the asphalt, I hauled the wheelchair from the back of the Forester and began fitting the wheels on.

Usually when we go out like this, we switch to what we call the “travel” wheels. This time, for some reason, I’d left the e-motion wheels on. Each wheel contains a battery that gives David an extra boost whenever he gives them a push, and they weigh 30 pounds apiece. I can’t lift that much weight at once, so I pop them off and put them in the car separately from the body of the wheelchair.

While I was reassembling the wheelchair in the parking lot of Lowe’s, an older man came up and offered to help. As usual, I appreciated the offer but said, “No, thanks, I have my routine.” Most people nod and smile and say something like, “You sure?” or, “God bless you,” and then leave. This man, however, took hold of the chair and began forcibly helping.

I held firm. So did he.

He told me he was 84 years old and had been in a wheelchair the summer before, that it had been hard for him to accept help but he’d learned its importance. Basically, he gave me a well-intentioned lecture about the need to accept help from others.

By the time he left, I felt like a rat.

Since then, I’ve thought about our encournter. I wish I hadn’t been so impatient with this kind man – that really was inexcusable. But I also recognize that he pushed beyond where he should have. So, here’s my take.

When you see someone dealing with a wheelchair or such, feel free to offer help. But if they say no, take them seriously. Smile. Make a nice comment. Then trust what they said, and leave.

You’ll have been a double blessing.

3, 2, 1…launch!

We’d heard all those scary stories of air travel.

Oh, yeah. We’d heard them.

Security checks that balloon into a nightmare of indignity and delay. Essential meds and equipment disapproved. Rude flight attendants, impatient with your slowness. Trapped in your seat, barely able to move for the entire flight, so you emerge at the end stiff, exhausted, and in agony…to find your high-dollar wheelchair trashed by the baggage gremlins.

So. For the first time since his accident, almost four years, David and I flew. Over Memorial weekend, we went to Delaware for his mother’s birthday, flying the friendly skies of United.

And they were friendly. Kind, helpful, efficient all the way.

Whoever invented curbside baggage checking deserves a medal and a great, smacking kiss. With our big bag whisked away, moving through the airport proved easy. My carry-on was a backpack, my purse hung from David’s wheelchair handles, his carry-on clipped to the purse’s taut strap, and he held the walker on his knees like a battering ram. We looked like the Beverly Hillbillies on vacation, but the setup worked.

In security, I did work up a sweat. I felt like a juggler with my seven or eight bins, tossing baggies and shoes and carry-ons and purses at them, diving into my lineup to fetch the backpack out of its bin and put it directly on the rollers because – for whatever reason – that’s the rule for backpacks. Meanwhile, off to one side, David chatted calmly with the guard who was wanding and patting him. Not an equitable division of labor.

In the shuttle train that took us to our gate, we learned a lesson: lock the wheelchair brakes. Enough said.

At the airplane, David experienced the aisle chair. In the privacy of the jetway, two strong, cheerful young men bodily lifted him out of his wheelchair and onto the odd-looking wheeled contraption. They strapped him in so thoroughly he couldn’t budge, wheeled him onto the plane and down the aisle, unstrapped him, and shifted him into his seat. “Everything okay? Have a great flight, Mr. Brown.” Then they rolled cheerfully away to their next job.

We had bulkhead seats both ways and got to keep the walker, so David could stand whenever he needed while I stood in the aisle to support him. Smooth as smooth. Our only excitement came when a woman a few rows behind us passed out, and her seatmate panicked and shoved me into David in his rush to tell the flight attendants. It turned out the two drinks she’d had on the plane weren’t her first of the day….

So, now we’ve broken the mental barrier against air travel with a wheelchair. It’s something we can do. More of a hassle than when both people are able-bodied? Of course. But not that much, and not every aspect. Will every flight go this smoothly? Probably not. But we’re game to try again.