It's Only a Wheelchair
It’s Only a Wheelchair

I knew this anniversary was coming up, but it wasn’t until Facebook posted one of those “here’s a memory from 5 years” ago tricks that I finally narrowed down the exact date. The exact date where I could say my life on wheels went from being about recovery and moved into relearning how to live my life.

June 8, 2011.

It’s hard enough for me to believe it’s been 5 years, I am betting that my friends and family can relate. I’ve said it before, but it applies now more than ever…in some ways it feels like it was just yesterday I was lying in a bed in that hot four bed ward, listening to one guy with his TV up too loud, to another guy who didn’t respect bathroom privacy, and wondering if the kindly german gentleman was about to have another seizure in the middle of the night. Those memories are so fresh, I can remember the feel of the bed and the smell of the room just by closing my eyes. Music of the time brings me back so easily, especially Shinedown’s The Sound of Madness, an album I listened to every night, often getting lost in the lyrics to the rocking “Diamond Eyes” (out on the frontline, don’t worry I’ll be fine, the story’s just beginning. I say goodbye to my regrets, so long to the regrets, and now I see the world through diamond eyes).

In my daily life though, it can feel like I’ve used the chair forever. It has become such a reality, the fight against my own legs, their steady decline over five years, the chair becoming my legs, that it feels in some ways like this is how it’s always been. I know logically that isn’t true, I spent most of my life walking and with a little luck I might end up with a life that is perhaps spent 50% walking and 50% wheeling. Who knows. There is one thing that tells that five years really hasn’t been all that long.

In my dreams I still don’t see myself in the chair. Not once. In every dream I can remember (and I am not great at remembering my dreams I admit) I still walk. Those long strides, taking stairs up 3 at a time, running down them so fast my feet seemed to barely touch them…those are what my dreams still hold for me. I wonder if that will ever change. I wonder when that might change. How will those dreams be different?

I never imagined this life. Of learning about spasticity and tone, and how the nerves work around the spine, of what the AODA is, and all the meanings to the term accessibility. I never thought I’d ever become an advocate of anything, despite my very opinionated political views. I knew that in life, I’d experience my triumphs and traumas, my victories and failures. We all do. I just never imagined how my traumas could turn into those triumphs.

So tonight, I continued that adventure, getting thoroughly humbled at wheelchair basketball, seeing how much hard work I still have to do, how much I have to improve to get healthier and better at everything, in the microcosm of that one unique sport. In the last two days of playing, I’ve had my fingers bashed between my chair and another, my shoulder stretched to screaming while getting tangled up fighting for a loose ball, and my thumb bruised in the lesson of how not to get your hands stuck between the spokes of a moving wheel. I’ve seen a woman who can only use one arm, pushing a chair with her one good arm faster than I can do with two. I’ve seen a woman with a C level spinal injury, having the best rebounding skills around a basket of anyone on the court. I’ve been picked up off the floor by brash gents half my age who hop out of their chair on only one leg, their prosthetics set aside, to help lift me back into my chair. I’ve never been more humbled in seeing how little I have to complain about. And I’ll go back next week for more and I promise myself, I will get better.

There are a ton of people who have helped me learn how to live this life and explore the world with it. I can’t begin to name them and all the adventures they’ve helped me experience. They know who they are from family, to extended family, coworkers and even just casual friends on Facebook…it all meant more than I can express. So here’s to the first 5 years. We’ll see where things stand in another 5 years. Wait hold on…I’d be 48?? How the hell did that happen?

Here’s to you and here’s to me…and if we should ever disagree…the frak with you and here’s to me!