Dependent Independence

Back in June I was riding my bike when my bike decided it didn’t want me to ride it any more: while I was turning a corner, it threw me off, causing me to bounce on concrete (which humans were probably never meant to do) and into someone else’s yard. Two nice men took my bike home and called 911; moments later, the ambulance came to take me to the hospital. From then until recently, it has been a journey of forced dependence for me.

From the time I went into triage until I left the hospital, the doctors and nurses were so kind and helpful to me. When I found out I had indeed broken my leg, many questions went through my mind: how do I deal with a broken leg for the next six to eight weeks? Will I be healed in time for me to go to the county fair (I so love to see the chickens and the cows at the fair)? How much will I be able to do by myself? Will I be able to eat my pseudohusband’s cooking?

Two fiberglass casts and an air cast later, I fixed myself a bowl of ramen noodles, the first ‘cooking’ I’ve done in nearly two months. Oh, how good it tasted! I shared some with my youngest stepson, who will be in college in the fall. If you have never broken a bone in your life, consider yourself blessed. If you have ever broken a bone in your life, consider yourself blessed, too; the blessings are different, but they still count.

Being used to doing for myself, I figured that I would get a temporary job for the summer so that I, too, could go back to college for the fall; breaking my leg prevented that, since my leg obviously needed to heal. I had to learn to trust my pseudohusband enough to let him wait on me hand and foot. Such subservience, however, got annoying when he fixed my food portions for me without regard for my appetite or my desire to lose weight so I could be kinder to a knee I sprained a few years earlier, or when he fixed me a batch of brownies and substituted baking mix for flour and molasses for vanilla (the brownies were a mile high, dreadful, and dry; I like my brownies moist and a touch creamy)! Occasionally, my stepson would help with the house chores or the cooking (such a sweet young man; I expect him to do what he can, unlike his mother, who expects him to do everything for her). Still, they mean well; I just found relying on someone else difficult.

As the weeks dragged on, I learned to ask for what I needed; I grew up in a home where I was not expected to ask for help and if I did ask for help I was chastised. I learned that we all need someone to lean on, a lesson many modern women in general and black American women in particular either were never taught or forgot. I also learned just how inconvenient society is for people with disabilities, even with the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 and the adjustments to buildings that have resulted from this act. For example, I was at a chain department store shopping when the motorized scooter I was in conked out in the middle of the store; fortunately, a store employee pushed me and the scooter to the front to guest services. This store only had three scooters available, and the other two were being used. I had to use a manual wheelchair to get around the store, much less convenient since I had to carry a shopping basket in my lap and push the chair simultaneously, limiting what I could buy.

Yes, any reasonable person knows that people with disabilities deserve equal access and convenience that able-bodied people enjoy; when faced with a temporarily disability, the tune is very different as you wind up singing the song of the woman in the scooter who can’t reach her favorite magazine because the top shelf is too high to reach at the bookstore or of the man who has to either ask someone to tend his garden or learn to live with weeds because he can’t tend his own garden. There are many young men and women coming home from various military conflicts with both temporary and permanent disabilities; while you lobby your representative or senator for revisions to the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, making all buildings fully accessible and convenient for the disabled and improving customer service for the disabled, help your young soldier/sailor/airman(woman)/Marine who has come home in more than one piece by getting that copy of his/her favorite magazine, or fix a meatloaf dinner with garden fresh vegetables for your granddad or grandma who is not as speedy as he or she used to be. Best of all, let your disabled loved one do at least something for himself or herself, to the best of that person’s ability.

I still have a few weeks left to heal my leg, but I am now allowed to bear half my weight on my air-casted leg. I still have a long road ahead, but I took that detour and it has made all the difference.

V.

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