My electric wheelchair is ailing. It seems to have some form of mechanical MS, which perhaps it caught from me. The chair has become very undependable – another malady it might have caught from me – and has been sitting idle since Thursday morning. I did bring the problem to the attention of the Convalescent Care staff when one of its technicians was out here a few weeks ago. He told me to periodically work the wheel-release levers, because rust and dust can build up and affect the chair’s performance. Mother would be so proud of me, I did as I was told, and for a week the problem seemed to be solved.
Then the chair developed a mind of its own, refusing to turn when told, suddenly swerving when it hadn’t been told, and occasionally obstinately sitting there and saying, “Fat chance, bub.” That is what happened Thursday. I was on my way back from properly disposing of some trash when the chair got obstinate and refused to go any further. I released the wheels, shot Judy, one of the cleaning ladies, a look of utter helplessness, she asked if I needed a push, and I said “Oh, would you?”
I had called Convalescent Care earlier that morning and called them again around noon. The service request was in the basket, the woman assured me, but she was uncertain if a technician would make it out that day. I told her, if they couldn’t make it today not to bother sending anyone Friday when I’d be at the Emory Clinic.
No service technician darkened the doorway to my apartment that day, and I spent the weekend in my manual chair. Covenant Woods is not manual-wheelchair friendly. The hallway from the B building, where I live, to the main lobby and dining room is long and uphill. But the real problem has been adapting to doing the everyday things in the apartment. By everyday things, I mean things like standing up so I can get into bed.
The electric chair is several hundred pounds of batteries and hardware. Push on it, and it ain’t going nowhere. The manual chair weighs considerably less. For that matter, it weighs considerably less than I do. Saturday, I spent a lot of time practicing how to get up from the wheelchair and into bed. Sunday, short on energy, or short on confidence, or short on both, I failed to make it.
It all started after I had spent several hours with Russ and Karen, who had carted me to Target and Publix and bought me lunch at The Egg and I. When we were done, I was done in and ready for a nap. The bed looked so inviting. Too bad I couldn’t manage to get in it. I went from being tired to being frustrated and tired as I tried without success to get out of the chair and into the sack. Convinced that all I needed was someone to hold the wheelchair as I transferred, I called Russ. No answer.
Then I had an idea. Why not put the idle electric wheelchair to work. It was next to the bed. I lowered myself on to the floor and, bracing myself on the wheelchair, tried to push myself up far enough that I could fall into bed. I might have made it if my left ankle worked better. But it doesn’t, and I laid there on the floor and tried to figure out my next move. Then the phone rang. It was Russ. “If you’re not doing anything, come save me,” I said, or words to that effect. He said he’d be right over.
Once Russ arrived I did my best to be the all-knowing father I’m sure he’s always considered me. “Look, why don’t you … No, maybe it would be better … Wait, move the wheelchair …No, that won’t work …” And while I was devising a fool-proof plan, Russ got behind me, ran his arms beneath my armpits, clutched his hands in front of me and hoisted me onto my feet, easily, with no help from me. All I had to do then was pirouette and sit down on the bed.
I was impressed. It’s been well over a year since I last tipped a scale. I was 175 then, and I have to be all that and at least fifteen or twenty more pounds now. I wondered if Russ had taken up weightlifting. His Uncle Bill and cousin Kevin are accomplished weightlifters. Last week, Kevin posted a video of him lifting 500 pounds. And Loni, Russ’ once diminutive cousin, occasionally posts pictures of her now muscular self on Facebook.
“Are you working out?”
“No. I walk a lot. And I had to carry a lot of heavy boxes when I worked for Barnes & Noble.”
He must have been in charge of moving the heavy tomes.
There is no surprise more pleasant than having your child surprise you with abilities you didn’t know he or she had. It makes a father proud.