After the Jelly Belly tour last week, and the results of walking with my back and hips grinding painfully, the Spouse Thingy said the words I did not want to hear.
“Maybe it’s time to think about a wheelchair.”
I’ve been there, done that, thank you very much. I did not enjoy it, other than zooming through Sam’s Club as fast as I could, trying to dodge little old ladies with their carts piled hi with paper towels and giant tubs of Metamucil. It was somewhere between 4-6 months of my face at everyone else’s ass-level. Four to six months of having cashiers look at the Spouse Thingy to ask what I wanted. Almost half a year of people trying not to look, or pretending I wasn’t there.
Nope, did not enjoy it one bit.
It hasn’t escaped my attention that we seriously limit the things we do and the places we go because of my mobility. The Spouse Thingy had most of last week off, and we had all these things we wanted to do, but we only managed the Jelly Belly tour. Museums, no way in hell. I just couldn’t walk that far.
I really want to go to the museum. I love art; I don’t know jack about it, other than I love seeing the paintings and sculptures. But the idea of trying to walk all the way through, or worse getting partway through and having to leave…it didn’t seem fair to the Spouse Thingy. Yet it’s also not fair that he doesn’t do these things because of my limitations.
So I started looking online, pricing chairs. Wow. Not cheap, not for a good one. Then we looked in a couple of local medical supply shops. Double Wow. Twice as much for the same chairs. The idea of spending $700 for a basic chair more or less left me with a sour lump in the pit of my stomach. Especially since we really want to get out of this apartment and into a house, and are trying to not spend so much.
Risking the chance that I wouldn’t be able to walk very long, we went to a flea market today. Mostly we just wanted to check it out, see what kinds of junk people were trying to get rid of. It’s a cheap way to spend some time, and I love flea markets. If I win the lottery, I’m opening my own. Indoors, with air conditioning.
Within 5 minutes of getting there, we spotted it. Right size, flip back arms, ultra-lightweight, and in nearly new condition. Hell, it might be new; it certainly doesn’t look like it was used very often. While I was checking it out, making sure all the pieces were there in all the right places, 2 people came up and asked me how much it was, thinking I was selling it. One woman had her hand on her purse, ready to buy. But for the price—$50—the Spouse Thingy was already handing the cash over to the guy who was selling it.
Basically, we saved over $600 by going to the flea market.
The thing is, while I’ve been dreading this as some personal failure and being so limiting, it really is just the opposite. It’s freedom. We can go anywhere we want now and not worry about if I’ll make it. And even more than that, this opens it up for me to be even more active. We’ve wanted to take evening walks, but didn’t dare. Now we can. I can push the chair until I can’t walk anymore, and then ride the rest of the way. Walking at least part of the way is better than not going at all.
California is very disabled-oriented, and people are used to seeing other people in wheelchairs. I noticed it even today; when I couldn’t walk any further, I plopped down into the chair and the Spouse Thingy pushed me along. People we encountered, asking about the stuff they were selling, talked to me. I wasn’t invisible. Yet I also wasn’t doing the attention getting dual-limp shuffle. I was as anonymous as anyone else.
I didn’t want this, but dammit, now that I’ve got this, I’m gonna fly.