Irony. Here, I have been blogging since late January about the struggles of raising a child with a disability. Then, I do a stupid move trying to answer the phone and smack my knee at full speed into our hardwood floor while running. Now, I am the one with the disability, blogging about struggling with it myself.
There is no cracked bone but there is fluid in my knee that completely prevents me from walking – at all. So, now, I am learning – on a temporary basis- what it is like to get around without using one of my legs, a totally different kind of disability. One where I am facing different challenges.
My mom, who got out of the hospital on Monday, has a wheelchair that she got from her last release from the hospital that far surpasses her four little wheel, folder-upper wheelchair. Guess who’s using that now? Yeah.
I can’t use the crutches because the movement of using crutches sends me into excruciating pain. If I’m still however, the pain is minimal (unless I move my leg or foot the wrong way). So, I’ve borrowed mom’s extra little wheelchair and I’m putt-putting around the house and office on my right leg.
I can’t do the simplest of chores. I can’t get to the drawers where I keep clothes because the space between the drawers and the bed is too small to fit the wheelchair. I have to get up – hop along the bedside – endure the pain – balance on one foot, get out clothes, hop back to the chair, and wheel myself around. Those steps are exhausting but necessary.
This chair does not have the kind of wheels that you can use your arms to propel. So, I am using my right leg to push me around. The carpet in our house is like wheeling through sand. I’m feeling hamstring muscles which have not been used on this kind of regular basis in quite some time. These muscles are not shy to let me know they are there – and they are mad at me.
I cannot take a shower, without assistance over a raised step area. My husband did get me a shower stool which is a really funky weird way to take a shower. I have already learned how to hobble myself out without assistance and do all my other basic living chores without any other help.
But let me tell you. This is not easy. I’m seeing the difficulty of a new kind of disability in a very personal way. And it’s hard work. I suppose, if I had to, I’d get used to it. I could get by for the most part. But, people who do this as a way of life have a whole new respect from me. They have to be very strong and patient every day.
The hubs took the little one and me out on Sunday afternoon and wheeled me around in the mall. The very same mall in which the little guy has had all his tantrums. It was – first of all- embarrassing for me. Too many people know me, and so I was obligated to explain the stupid way I injured myself, repeatedly. They were all nice to my face but who knows what they said when I left. Although, I really don’t care. I’ll be up soon and it will all be forgotten (I think).
The interesting part was how no one stared. No one took a second glance. No one was overly accommodating or pitied me or treated me any different than when I was walking around. That part was decidedly different than it was in the heyday of our mall meltdowns with my son. Everyone would stare or give me dirty looks or ask my son if I was being mean to him because of his behavior. I would get shunned, told what to do, or pitied. Everyone knew how to parent my child better than me.
But, in a wheelchair? No one treated me differently, except to hold a door or make sure I had room. So, what gives here?
I’m clearly disabled for any unknown reason to a stranger. I’m not elderly appearing (at least I think not) and I’m not being look at with disdain in the chair. So, the physical disability is recognized and accepted? The neurological disability is neither recognized nor accepted? Or just mostly not recognized, and in its place is a perception of bad parenting on my part?
My son has vacillated between not liking the wheelchair (Mommy is too slow getting to where he wants me to be) to loving the wheels and trying to hitch a ride. He has started pushing me around when I get to the hardwood or tile part of the floor because he’s learned he can get a ride on the back with a little push. (Sneaky kid!)
It’s a great thing about him. He knows it’s just me, mom, riding this wheeled chair. He loves me just the same. He’s not treating me different.
It makes me realize. He has no prejudices. He has not expressed any fear or dislike for any person irrationally based on differences. Maybe that simply because being autistic means he doesn’t always notice the differences, or he thinks those kinds of differences are not meaningful on a very natural, innocent and wonderful level. Any way I look at it though, I’m learning a new appreciation for those who do not use legs to propel themselves about.
I’m learning my son bears no prejudices based on differences in appearance. And I’m learning that most places do a lot to accommodate those with physical disabilities. Wouldn’t it be nice if most people and businesses equally understood and respected those with autism spectrum disorder as well?
I think so too.