It was a surgery I had put off for a LONG time, years in fact. I thought I had prepared well for it. I had a set of crutches, a knee walker/scooter (what a really cool way to get around!) and a temporary handicapped parking pass. I had cooked many meals and put them in the freezer and I had arranged for rides to and from school for the kids. I downloaded several books to my Kindle, loaded up the DVR with shows and movies that I wanted to watch but never had time for and even bought a couple of gossipy magazines.
I didn’t leave the house for nearly two weeks. I had friends drop by with food and stories to share. I had kids in and out for school and activities. Then, we ran out of milk. And fruit. And meat. And my sweet husband leaves at 6:30 a.m. to drive 45 miles to work in Dallas and doesn’t get home until after 8 p.m.
It was time to go to the grocery store and actually be in public. I tried to figure out how I was going to maneuver my scooter or crutches and a grocery cart. I got as far as the front door and couldn’t do it. I waited until my high school freshman got home from school. Armed with his newly gained driver’s license learners permit (in mid December), he drove the car to the store, about two miles away. He slid expertly into the handicapped parking spot although he was mortified by this! He told me, very grown up like, “Mom, you stay here. I can get the things on the list.” Wow. Was I ready for that? Was I ready for my son to do the grocery shopping for a family of five? Would he buy the right brand? Would he get a bunch of things not on the list? Would he use the coupons? He could and he did! And he’s done it several times since. I have almost watched the entire movie, The Hunger Games, during his grocery store jaunts.
Being temporarily handicapped has been a challenge for me. I have been so self conscious of being on the scooter or on crutches (now in boot). There are the perks, sure – great parking! But trying to get the scooter or other equipment out of the car while standing upright is like trying to pull your head out of a shirt when all the buttons are still buttoned up. There are helpful heroes out there for sure – the beer delivery guy who saw me struggle while getting gas, thanks for pumping gas for me; the lady who picked up my backpack after I dropped it three times in the parking lot at work. And there are more.
Then there are those who have NO idea how to act or what to say around someone who is impaired. The looks I got on the elevator are priceless. One guy acted like he was ready to catch me in case the elevator jolted violently. Most people avert their eyes and act like they don’t see me. It’s funny because I let those people get to me. I find myself becoming more self conscious and not resembling the person I really am.
My co-workers have heard me tell the tales many times over the ensuing weeks. My co-workers are such caring and fun-loving people, especially for putting up with me so far this year. They haven’t pulled any pranks on me and they have carried my work supplies from meeting to meeting for me. They have made me a plate when we have a lunch meeting. I think I’ll let them all take a spin on my scooter!
Sara Brice is program director of the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano Scoliosis & Spine Tumor Center.