Thursday, 6 October 2011

One and a Half Handicapped

It was our niece Heather’s birthday on Monday. Heather lives in Langley with her hubby, Frank and their beautiful 5 year old daughter, Kaelyn, who has happily started kindergarten this fall. Heather had an appointment in White Rock and not only was it her birthday, but the forecast called for rain and because Heather has Cerebral Palsy, she was going to have to take her wheelchair on a connect-the-dots bus trip to her appointment, so we offered to take her. She kindly accepted our offer and we were happy to help. We gave ourselves about 45 minutes to get there, but it only took fifteen. It would have taken Heather about an hour and a half by busses. Most of the parking in front of the building was handicapped parking. Mike told me to park in one of the handicapped spots. He and Heather both agreed that even though I don’t have a permit to park in a handicapped spot, it was more than okay because after all, they were ‘one and a half handicapped ‘(see Mike’s post Half Handicapped). Instead, I dropped them off and parked somewhere else (I had a flashback of the Seinfeld episode where George parks in a handicap spot and when he, Elaine, Kramer, and Jerry return to the car, it’s destroyed by a mob of angry people.) I’m glad I parked somewhere else, because when we came out after the appointment, all the handicapped spots were taken. I’m not handicapped, thankfully, and didn’t feel right about parking in the handicapped spot without a permit. It was easy for me to go get the car and come back for my one and a half handicapped passengers.
Mike is doing well adjusting to his half handicap…but here is a question: Is it more difficult for a person to become handicapped later on in life, or to be born that way and never know the difference?  
We dropped Heather off with time for her to go pick Kaelyn up from school. Later, Mike and I went back to Langley with our son Nathan and his daughter Leah to take Heather, Frank and Kaelyn out for birthday dinner. Frank is a bike expert…sales, service etc. He took Mike’s bike last week to make a few adjustments. Well, when we showed up for dinner, Frank had Mike’s bike ready for him. He switched the brakes, so now the back brake is on the left handlebar – Mike’s strong side. He also put on new tires, tuned it up and presented Mike with a brand new helmet. Wow, gifts for Mike on Heather’s birthday. We are pretty sure Heather’s mom, Pat (Mike’s sister – see Big Sisters) who lives in Toronto, made sure a helmet was included in the return of the bike.
Today, while Mike and I were out running a few errands, I paid extra attention to how people responded to Mike’s half handicap. A woman at the doctor’s office seemed a little annoyed when she had to move over coming up the stairs for Mike who needed the left hand railing while going down the stairs. Someone at the drug store seemed a little impatient because we were walking slowly and they obviously had to get somewhere fast. At the grocery store, Mike likes to push the buggy because it helps him with his balance, but others who had better things to do seemed a little antsy when Mike couldn’t steer his buggy out of their way fast enough. Mike thinks he should wear a hat that says, “I have ALS” so people will perhaps be more sympathetic. In Heather’s case, it’s a little more obvious, but I’m guessing she experiences the same responses.
As I observe my one and a half handicapped passengers, I am humbled and realize that I need to be more patient with others less capable and more thankful for my capabilities.
                                            Heather the birthday girl, Kaelyn and Frank


Leah and Kaelyn waiting to be seated at Red Robin

Mike's new helmet

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