I went to a new mental health clinic. A friend of mine drove me and I used my new light weight wheelchair.
The clinic takes medicare and medicaid, so there were lots of older people and people with disabilities. In the middle of the the parking lot, was an older woman in a wheelchair. Her back was so hunched over that she had to tilt her head sideways to look at anything besides her lap. She had one leg amputated below the knee.
As far as I could tell, she was by herself, dropped off by one of the non-emergency medical transport companies. She looked so frail, but was also able to get around in what looked like an extremely heavy wheelchair — up and down the ramp, and over thresholds, into the clinic. I needed help from with that from the friend who drove me there.
When the older woman saw my wheelchair, she was delighted.
I used to get lots of compliments and questions about my 3 wheel walker, an easily maneuverable thing that didn’t take up much space. Then I became too unstable for it, so I started using the standard 4 wheel one. I found that I missed the attention I got with my old walker — I guess I felt I was a cool handicapped person with the 3 wheel one. None of us are immune to wanting a little attention and compliments.
Now I’m using a wheelchair most of the time. I have a power chair for everyday use and a manual one for when I need a ride somewhere and can’t take the bus.
So, when this frail, friendly woman started complimenting my chair, it felt really good — that she noticed me and took time to tell me, in her own way, I was lucky. And, as often happens, when I go to clinics, I realized how much movement and mobility I still have.
I had a good session with my new psychiatrist, but I think the thing that felt best was my brief connection with this woman, her clothes tattered, her body bent, her eyes a milky blue, her life limited but so alive. And though it was a short conversation, it lifted my spirits. What people go through, what they survive — it seems like resentment would cloak us all, but over and over again, I see people find a way to shed bitterness and share their sweetness and light.
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