9. Can I hold your hand, please? (What’s your name?)

Dr. Frankenstein (PT6) and his minion (me) and Dr. Intern (PT7), right before the non-hand-holding incident

The title should really be “May I hold your hand?” – “can” implies ability, “may” asks permission.  I learned that when sitting in on D’s ES(O)L 1/2 class and wanted to emphasize that point in case he ever reads this.  I shared the level 4/5 class with K, a very experienced educator. What I lacked in experience I made up for with candy.  (The Costco valuepak kind.)  FYI I learned most of the grammar on Youtube before teaching it.

Mom and I went to the grocery store on Monday where I did my duty and pushed a shopping cart for exercise (PT6’s instructions). Before I commandeered a cart, though, I stood by the car for a moment so Mom could retrieve her shopping bags from the back seat.  I even did some side-stepping to get out of the way.  I must have looked rather shaky since a nice man called out to us from across the parking lot (he was holding the elbow of his pregnant wife as they exited the supermarket) and asked if he could give me a hand.  We thanked him and assured him we were okay, and I eventually toddled into the grocery store with Mom.

I have never held hands with so many people since I got sick.  While I was an inpatient my therapists held on to me, and at first there was no hand-holding – PT14 would just say, “Give me a hug,” since the goal wasn’t for me to necessarily support my own weight on my feet, it was to avoid crumpling on the ground when I transferred from bed to a chair, so I needed more support than a hand could offer.  The first time I had a hand offered to me I refused, since I was not a hand-holder in my old life and the idea was very foreign to me.  At one of my first PT sessions as an outpatient I met PT6&7 for the first time and they told me to climb up on a mini-trampoline where I did some squats or lunges or something.  When it was time to disembark they saw that I hesitated, unsure how to step down and make it back to my walker or my chair.  PT6 automatically put a hand out for me to hold on to.  Stubbornly, I clung to my independence instead and by some contortionist moves that allowed me to hold on to the metal railings, stepped off of the trampoline safely.  Within a few months I understood that it was a treat to hold on to PT6’s hand, and if he was offering it, I’d better take it.  I also started holding hands with all the random people who offered to help me, since it’s obvious I really need it.

I had a conversation re. the definition of “considerateness” with my eldest niece when she was 4 or 5.  We were on a shopping expedition at Tysons and were in the play area next to the food court.  “Be considerate of the other children,” I reminded her.  “What’s ‘considerate’ like?” Hannah queried.  I made something up about being mindful of other people and thinking about what would make them more comfortable.  She listened politely and then shot off to ride down the slide.  I think that’s what consideration boils down to – thinking about other people and employing the golden rule.  I have seen both spectrums of human behavior since getting sick.  I am continually appalled by how nonchalantly able-bodied people can occupy a handicapped parking spot with no apparent guilt over taking that space from someone who needs it more.  Thankfully, I’ve seen more examples of the other end of the spectrum, like the gentleman who rushed to get a chair for me at the DMV, the lady who held the door for me the first time I took my quad cane out in public and told me I was “doing great,” and the multiple people who made room for Mom and me to sit down this morning at Rehab. I will likely have some variation of the “What’s ‘considerate’ like?”  conversation in the future with some of my other children, and then I can point to people like the man in the parking lot and say, “That is what ‘considerate’ looks like.”