Friday, June 7, 2013

“My Wheelchair, My Friend” (Part II)

Two weeks ago I talked about how important my wheelchair is to my life.  It lets me do almost anything an able-bodied person can do any time I want to do it.  I may be a bit slower at some things, but as that great American sage, Larry the Cable Guy, says, I can “git ‘er done.”    And for all its practical value, my wheelchair represents much more.  It is a symbol.

To those who don’t know any better, my wheelchair is a symbol of victimhood.  I can almost read their thoughts as they pass across their brow.  “Poor guy.  What a terrible fate….Thank God it’s not me.”  It’s a a symbol to these people that I am limited, and if I am physically limited, it follows that I must be mentally limited as well.  When I see this reaction, I just smile at the people and hope that time will bring them wisdom and understanding.  The truth is that my thinking is not limited, and my physical limitations are not that, well, limited either.  Consider that I go anywhere I want whenever I want.  I have a wife and a child.    I exercise regularly.  I have a loving and fun group of friends, and I am productive in the community.  Not so limited in my view.

The second symbol is one of human ingenuity.    My wheelchair is designed with care and keen attention to detail.  I have a power wheelchair for long treks and a manual one for rumbling around the house.  I can go up and down hills.  I can turn on a dime.  I can cover miles in a mall.  It’s just the right size to let me open doors and pass through most doorways.  In so many ways, it is life giving.  It was made with a profound understating of what my needs are, and it is a capable substitute for my legs.  I love it, and I love that in the years before my accident some very smart people put a lot of care into designing it and making it reliable.  I am standing on the shoulders of my predecessors who described to the engineers and manufacturers what they needed and what would work best.  I am the beneficiary of their good work, and I thank these unknown, unseen donors for the gift they gave me.

I guess the point is that if you live in a wheelchair, you think a lot about it.  I sometimes yell at mine when it’s not behaving exactly the way I want, and I whisper words of encouragement when my chair and I are navigating some particularly tough terrain.  Americans have long had a love affair with their trucks and cars.  Mine is with my wheelchair.

Have a great week.

Dwight Owens

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