My parents’ house has nice wide hallways and I am very thankful that they didn’t have to do any renovating to accommodate my wheelchair when I moved back in with them. The changes they made were temporary, e.g. how Ernie & Ruth moved one of the guest beds downstairs since I couldn’t sleep in my bedroom at first, and how we moved the piano bench somewhere so I could roll myself right up to the keyboard to practice. Speaking of which, I should go do that. Mommy has noticed that I haven’t been putting in my practice time lately. So I’m going to get on that.
Back in the day Mommy also noticed (and commented on) the way I was driving my wheelchair. Now I had no notion that there were different driving styles, but apparently there are. I just wanted to get where I was going so I gripped, pushed, and turned those wheels accordingly. It’s pretty intuitive, btw, although I did need coaching at first.
My parents’ house is pretty accessible, however the thresholds in some doorways are quite high. For a wheelchair that means the person driving it has to give a big heave – ho to get into that room. The threshold leading into/out of the kitchen is one of those high ones. Like many families, we spend a lot of time in the kitchen, so I either needed help to get into the kitchen or I had to give myself a really big push.
We didn’t have to make any renovations to the house (although we planned on calling CEF, one of my wheelchair handlers, if we did), since there was just enough room for my chair to pass through the doorways. If Mommy was pushing my chair I kept my arms close to my body at all times. If I was pushing myself I ran the risk of scraping my knuckles.
We were in the kitchen with my sisters one day soon after my homecoming when I excused myself to go do laps in the hallway or something. Mom told me to be careful as I propelled myself out the door. I backed up from the threshold so I had more momentum-building distance and then gave myself a giant push. At that point I head Mom say, “Look at the way she’s wheeling that thing around!” Quick as a flash I let go of the wheels and folded my arms inside the chair and passed safely over the threshold and to the other side. I then heard my family giggling at the spectacle of my recklessly pragmatic wheelchair technique.
Let’s call it “determination” instead of recklessness. I like that interpretation. I just wanted to go where I was fixin’ to go in my mind and I didn’t think about what I looked like to other people (hence all the early lectures on proper wheelchair and walker usage).
Apparently how you look when you do things does matter because someone’s pretty much always watching. I once overheard a conversation at The Place when I was still bashing around in my chair – someone was observing how I was using my legs to propel myself and opined out loud that I’d walk soon. It wasn’t exactly “soon” by my definition of the term, but it happened.
So now I think more about how I do things. I liked the fact that I could make my family laugh by simply pushing myself out of the kitchen, and that the way I did it held some sort of vaguely positive connotation. Perhaps I should apply myself to practicing the piano with the same sort of vigor.