Thursday, January 29, 2015

Rolling Stop

Written: 4/26/10

Bathrooms are my nemesis. This is because they usually require me to stand, and use my upper body simultaneously. And this leaves me without any way to keep my balance. At the least, it takes a while. And at most, there's pain involved. 

My grandma's toilet is set so far off in no-man's land that there is literally nothing nearby to grab hold of. It takes a ridiculous amount of time for me to take care of things. Her bathtub produces a similar conundrum.

I could step in okay, holding onto the wall for support. But getting out? Well, that was another story.

At around eleven years old, I had rarely, if ever, bathed there, and now I knew why. I glanced around to see what was available as a supportive surface. The toilet was out. It faced the wrong direction.

And there was nothing else.

Finally, I had an idea, and planted my hands on the mat outside the tub. I crawled out, wheelbarrow-fashion, and considered it a victory. 

--

Outside of the bathroom, my family has never been the kind to ignore a sign of someone in need. And when I say someone in need, I mean me. 

At eight years old, Trent hauled me up around the waist toward the binocular-stand on vacation. When Mom asked what he was doing, he replied simply, "I'm helping."

My mom will still wrap her arms around my waist, using her tiny five-foot frame as a counter-balance for me, while I navigate the garage steps.

Years ago, I went to Tanner's elementary school Track-and-Field Day with my dad. I had taken my wheelchair, and it didn't take Dad long to notice the lack of ramps and general accessibility outdoors.

"This is just stupid," he muttered under his breath, mindful of the school full of children at various events. "How the hell are you supposed to get anywhere?"

"There's a ramp over there."

After hours spent searching for ramps or closer access to the events, Dad had enough.

"I'm writing a letter!" he insisted, ignoring my many attempts to tell him that this was just the way things were. 

And then there's Tanner.

We were in Mexico, on vacation when he pushed me up a steep ramp. I knew he was strong, but I also knew he was only ten, so I asked if he was okay or if I should help push.

There was a brief pause, as he kept pushing. Then he asked, "How much do you weigh?"

Unoffended, I answered, "I don't know... Around 100 pounds? Maybe a little less. Why?"

"Oh, yeah! I could lift you so easily! Okay, get on my shoulders!" he said, sounding proud, and completely serious.



Tanner wasn't always so willing to help me, though. When he was six, I asked him if he would please take my plate and put it in the sink for me. He barely blinked before he asked, "Well, why can't you just push it across the floor?"

Little did he know, when I was a lot younger, I used to make sandwiches without a plate at all. Just bread on the floor and a jar of peanut butter. It took too much time and energy for me to make a sandwich at the counter, where I had to always use one arm to support myself, no matter what I was doing.

In my kitchen, counters extended around nearly the entire room, but abruptly stopped just before the dining room table. No matter how far I stretched, I couldn't reach the table, and still hold onto the counter.

But there was plenty of floor space to be had.

--

Every bathroom has its own difficulties. 

If it has throw rugs, those are a slipping hazard. Outhouses in the rain pose the same problem, except my crutches slip on the filth that covers the floor. Mud and shoe-germs and God knows what other kind of germs. 

When I worked at a summer camp I never took a single shower. It was impossible, with no railing and nowhere to sit. Instead, I washed up at the bathroom sink, when the campers were out doing other activities.

It was okay at first. But the summer I worked ten weeks there, I came home on weekends, dying for a real shower in a place where I could use my shower chair, or to soak in a tub that I could actually get in and out of.

Unfortunately, both bathrooms at my parents house were being remodeled. The shower downstairs was completely unusable, and the upstairs one and now had a sliding shower door installed on the tub's edge, and no railing attached as there had been my whole life. 

I could get in. Barely. That lip, and its extra inch of height was almost insurmountable for my spastic leg, but I managed.

As usual, my trouble came in getting out. This time, I could manage to step out with one leg before I had to figure out how to get my other leg out.

I put my hands down and tried to army-crawl, which worked so well every time I needed a fast escape from a cumbersome tub.

But it was no use. The track for the shower door made it impossible.

Finally, I gave up and set about jerking my leg over the side to freedom. 

I had bruises for a month afterward, but at least I was clean.

But it didn't take long for me to get tired of it. I was done with getting bruises on top of my bruises, and looking like an abuse victim, when I was really a victim of remodeling. So, I did something about it.

I moved out, to a place with a shower.

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