I was two months into my post-polio sequelae diagnosis, feeling a bit glum, failing to control my symptoms even though I had cut my daily step routine by a whopping 75 percent. When the phone rang and my cousin Gloria told me there was a concert in Grant Park (Chicago), I knew it was just the medicine I needed. “There is just one problem,” I told Gloria, “I can’t walk downtown, but I can borrow the wheelchair from my office and if you can push me, I can drive.” We teamed up and off we went — my first crip event in a wheelchair.
After the concert, we started the bumpy trek back to the car, with Gloria paying no heed to the crooked sidewalks, large cracks, and patches of gravel. I was hanging on for dear life, afraid I would be propelled into space by my maniac driver. Then, on one forward lunge, she high-centered me on a very large chunk of concrete. She was pushing, my wheels were spinning, but I was going nowhere. No fewer than five Sir Lancelots instantly arrived and started pushing and pulling on my chair. Frightfully scared, I yelled, “Stop, stop!” — but they wouldn’t listen and refused to give up. Finally, they freed me from the “cliff.” I was nearly peeing in my pants with laughter and terror. All I wanted to say amidst all the commotion was, “Just let me stand up, I can walk out of this mess!”
Things that Go Bump in the Night
I left the bathroom and headed down the unlit hall to my bedroom but heard footsteps close behind. I jerked my head around, expecting to see a family member wandering in the dark, like me. No one there. Frightened, I quickened my pace. So did my follower. Thump-THUMP, thump-THUMP. I propelled my wheelchair faster. Inwardly I was screaming, “Don’t look back!” – scraping the wall in my haste. But the footsteps kept pace. Thump-THUMP, thump-THUMP! Finally, I reached my bedroom, flew across the threshold, flung the door shut, and locked it. Ear against the door, I waited. No sound. Eventually, I turned on the light and opened the door slowly and sat there looking down the hall at my “monster.” An edge of toilet tissue had somehow wrapped itself around my axle in the bathroom. As I’d wheeled down the hallway, sheet after sheet had followed behind me, rolling the tissue off its holder — thump-THUMP, thump-THUMP, thump-THUMP.
Driving to a meeting, I parked my car, took my wheelchair out and started to transfer, but the chair started rolling away from me, as the parking lot was slightly inclined. The next moment the chair turned 90 degrees to the right and headed down the driveway towards Route 20, a four-lane highway, rolled across all four lanes and landed in a ditch while traffic was passing but miraculously didn’t get hit. Someone retrieved the chair and I was thankful, but one week later I couldn’t find my checkbook. I convinced my wife to return to the scene of the runaway chair, and there she found my checkbook lying in the ditch!