Bully Pulpit: Ultimate Chair Perks

Tim GilmerWe all know about those prime parking spaces and the best stalls in public restrooms (theoretically, at least). Free rental car and airline seat upgrades are a pleasant surprise when they actually happen. And always having your own chair handy when the folding chairs in a conference room disappear can be nice. But I never thought I’d be getting that I-won-the- lottery feeling when it comes to being a grandfather on wheels.

With my daughter, I always felt a sense of responsibility, so everything I did with her was weighted with consideration for the future. With my grandson, the ultimate responsibility for his future is on his parents, so I’m free to simply enjoy the moment. In other words, I get to be a kid again.

His name is Cooper and he’s pushing 3. That’s not the only thing he pushes. He discovered the flip-up handles on my chair when he was just a year old. Now whenever the opportunity arises, he’ll flip the handles up and start pushing, never mind where. I get to go for rides when I least expect it.

I’m quick to return the favor. I’ll grab him, toss him in my lap and take off. Hardwood floors and lots of space make for a fast track. I’ll stop abruptly, skidding with one brake (my hand) firmly applied, then spin in circles. Remember getting dizzy as a kid? It’s even better as an adult.

Cooper has discovered the sturdy cross-piece where my wheel hubs mount. He’ll crawl under my chair and use the cross-piece as a jungle gym, wrapping his legs around it and hanging there. When I try to roll, he becomes a human mop.

My chair is also a classroom on wheels. The spokes are tuneable, so my wheels become a harp. The kid is developing his ear while strengthening his fingers.

I’m the designated book reader and TV lounger, so he’ll climb up on my lap with a book or simply lean back against me and watch a little Curious George. At dinner time I become an eating tutor. When he won’t eat from his booster seat (it’s a little like isolation or prison), he’ll sometimes crawl up in my lap, grab my fork and eat off my plate, with a little coaching.

In my minivan, he can’t wait to escape from his seatbelt and shoulder harness, so when we park somewhere he’s instantly in my lap pushing every button and flipping every lever while taking me on a pretend trip. It’s not unusual to have lights on, windshield wipers, caution flashers, radio or CD player, windows going up and down … all at once!

The main thing about kids when you’re always sitting is your stature. You’re at their level, so why lord it over them? As a grandparent on wheels, you’re just the right height to catch that glint in their eye, to see a hint of a smile before it breaks out like the sun escaping from behind clouds.

To kids, a wheelchair is a toy. I sometimes wish that adults could see it that way.

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