Back in September, I posted a link to this amusing and OH so accurate article: 23 Things that People in Wheelchairs Deal With. It was a great bit of click-bait reading that made Shannon and I laugh at just how true they all were (yes my hands are always that dirty). It immediately started us dreaming up a new list, as Shannon joked a bit about all the things that spouses of those on wheels have to deal with and we put together a really good list. I meant to make an article out of it back then, but like so much, life hit and it fell by the wayside…
A few weekends gone by brought it all back. We were taking in the new expansion at Sherway Gardens having a late lunch in the posh new “food court” and amusing ourselves eavesdropping on interviews for the new Keg. Between enjoying our Chipotle burritos and making jokes about how The Keg management would react if I rolled up to apply for a job, I had one of my regular leg spasms hit. Now anyone of my friends and family have seen these spasms, truth be told, they are so used to them they only pay attention when my knee rams up into a table hard enough that it shakes whatever was on it. I tend to say “ouch” more out of reflex than any real pain…but for anyone not used to the spasms, I am sure it makes for a very confusing sight with all the people around me are ignoring it.
This day I had another kind of spasm, one that actually was painful, and made my legs curl back under me. As it was happening, Shannon looked up, knew what it was and went back to reading something on her phone. The poor woman beside us leaned over and had to ask if I was ok. I assured her that was the case while Shan smiled and echoed the sentiment. Calming others as to the normality of a disability. Just one of the things spouses have to deal with.
So here’s a partial list of the amusing and sometimes not so amusing things that they hear and do:
- recognizing spasms before they happen and learning where to be to not get hit by them
- warning others when a leg is about to kick…or NOT warning them if she feels that guy who just cut in front needs the kick behind his kneecaps
- becoming agile enough to avoid getting toes rolled over no matter the place or lack of space
- becoming very good at “accidentally” maneuvering my chair over the toes of those who deserve to be run over
- becoming an all around amateur medical practitioner: from nursing and cleaning scrapes and cuts, to doing physio on muscles and massages on shoulders, a spouse learns quick what they can do at home to cut annoying medical trips
- the one-handed chair pull technique that let’s you hold hands while side-by-side
- the patience to NOT punch the next person who says, “oh you must be so strong to be able to handle your husband being in a wheelchair” (she’s come close)
- learning to move really quickly once a car is parked to either open a car door, or stand by the wheelchair as it emerges before anyone starts to whine about us being too young and healthy for a disabled spot
- learning mini-chair mechanic techniques to help fix things while the chair is in use (ie. low tires, a backrest out of alignment)
- knowing where every supply is kept in every pocket of the ever helpful backpack hanging from the back of the chair, whipping out those hand wipes and bandages as needed
- knowing just how many shopping bags can fit behind the chair and in a lap before the wheeled can’t push themselves any more…at least she knows it, unlike others who recognize a limit to the lap!
- learning how to maneuver in public change rooms to help try on clothing…amazing how we don’t get quirked eyebrows when she comes in anymore
- getting into sync with spouse in the chair as to who is pushing and who is steering when in a crowd (seriously, this is a learned skill, it’s screwed up many a person who’ve tried to help and don’t know how to do it)
- learning all those pressure points that you can strategically hit/pinch when your hubby is rambling on a bit too much (since kicking legs under a table doesn’t work anymore)
- getting REALLY in shape by pushing a chair and the man in it up a sandy hill at a dog park as the chair is sliding sideways…seriously you should try it.
- knowing when to offer needed help and when to just sit back and let the one in the chair figure out when hit with a problem. It’s a balancing act.
That barely scratches the surface of what a spouse has to deal with when their partner is in a chair, and I expect I’ll be adding more to that list soon enough. Sometimes these make the abled-spouse look a bit uncaring to those who don’t know the situation…but in reality it’s more about understanding the change to the body of your partner and what needs help or comment and what doesn’t. The real trick is enjoying yourself in ways that are similar to what you did while both were abled-bodied. Holding hands on st/roll, sharing a kiss that shows the walking partner isn’t just a caregiver…breaking down some of the walls we all have in our assumptions when you meet someone with any disability.
That disability affects more than just the person hit by it. It’s their friends, family, loved ones…and if they are married, their spouse most of all. I’m fortunate that I have someone in my life who can handle all of the above and much more. I wish everyone could have such a person who can laugh, rage, cry and smile at the things everyone has to deal with that make their lives that much more interesting. In all seriousness though…trust me…the next person who tells her how strong she is WILL find out just how strong she is. I take no responsibility for the results…or the state of their toes after that.