The other day John asked me if I would like to go to the bookstore. Now he knows not to ask that question unless he has a wallet full of money and a load of free time. Of course, I do all the driving so the free time thing is debatable. The one thing in my favor is that John loves to read too. He's not quite as rabid as I am but he does enjoy a good historical read. Apparently he had gone through all of MY summer reading and was getting restless. The baseball games are only on when the games are being played and that leaves whole spaces of time that need to be filled with a non baseball competing activity. Helping me scrub the bathroom is not considered a viable activity;he might sprain his arm scrubbing and then he wouldn't be able to raise his fist when he wants to cuss about something that shouldn't have happened in the next Red Sox game. He hadn't finished uttering the question before I had my hair brushed, and the car keys in my hand.
Before I go on with this story I have to tell you a few things about 'John'. John has been newly diagnosed with MS. John carries a cane because he now has that funny little limp that I had up until my mid-40's. John tires easily when he is required to walk any further than from the television to the icebox. John is new to this game of living in a body that wont do what it used to do and when he is walking he concentrates by doubling up the fist that is not holding onto the cane and putting a fierce scowl on his face. The scowl on his face, he says, is to assure that his brain gets the message that the legs are to go forward, one after another, in a straight line. Now, I've been living in a body that moves a little differently from the norm my whole life so I have tried to share my wisdom with John. I'm constantly trying to teach him how to live and be loved in a world full of supposedly 'unhampered' bodies. I have watched people's faces when they get a look at him coming their way. They grab their children and scoot as far away from his side of the sidewalk as they can. "They think you're a pissed off drunk, John." Of course, it doesn't help matters that I yell, "Hey, you ole drunk why don't you try laying off the booze when you're going to be in public." But, hey, I'm only trying to add some levity to the occasion. If John laughed just a wee bit it would soften that scowl he puts on his face and people wouldn't be as apt to grab their children and run. They'd just think he was an old drunk, and old drunks can be handled. John doesn't put much stock in my shared wisdom so the scowl stays on his face and when he feels like his legs are getting tired he grabs my wheelchair handles and acts like I need him to push my wheelchair for me. Actually, he's holding on for dear life while the wheels on my wheelchair take us both where we want to go. To be truthful, when we go out in public we are a pair to behold. I smile too broadly to make up for his scowl and he whispers too loudly that the fricken wheelchair is moving too fast. I answer that I could move twice as fast as him on any given day and he answers that if that's the truth then I should get up off my butt and start walking to prove it. We have so much fun when we go out! That is one of the reasons that I was so enthusiastic when he asked if I would like to go to the bookstore.
So, the dog and I are in the car waiting and John is still in the house trying to get himself together. He should know better then to say "bookstore" before he has himself half way out the door. I yelled to him that if he hurried we could spend some time in the bookstore and then order his favorite coffee at the coffee counter and then sit outside and check out one another's books to see if we should be jealous because the other person found something that looks really, really good. That got him moving. He loves that coffee. We arrived at the bookstore in record time and luck was with us; our favorite handicapped parking spot was open. We got the wheelchair out of the car, John put the scowl on his face, and the dog settled in the back seat to guard the car while we were gone. Everything was going great!. We were almost at the door, we were almost in the store, when WHAM one of the wheels of the wheelchair came flying off and I found myself sliding off the chair and onto the sidewalk. I didn't get hurt, but the ridiculousness of the situation hit my funny bone and I laughed so hard that people must have thought I was hysterical, and then, of course, they looked at John and thought a pissed off drunk was the cause of my fall. There were people everywhere but not one person offered to help either one of us. Sorry, I lied. One person did offer to help. A homeless woman, that was pushing her basket of belongings through the shopping area, thought she had found a couple of people that were in worse condition than she was and she sat down on the sidewalk to have a nice warm chat. All this activity tired John's legs and obviously he couldn't pretend to push my wheelchair so he had to go find a place to sit down. He thought this was the logical thing to do. After all I was sitting down wasn't I. When I could get a word or two in between the words that were coming out of the homeless woman I yelled to John that maybe he better try to find a phone to call my son. Maybe my son could bring a tool of some sort to put the wheel back on the chair. The homeless woman encouraged John to do just that and assured him that she would sit there and take care of me while he was gone. AND still not one able bodied human came over to help me. John took off to find a phone and I dragged myself out of the way of the people that were trying to get into the bookstore. AND still not one able bodied human came over to help me. John found a phone, called my son, and made his scowling way back to assure me that David was on his way. AND then a lovely, young woman quietly came up and said that her husband was a mechanic and maybe he could put the wheel back on for me. John was so grateful that he actually tried to form a smile over the scowl. The homeless woman was a little disappointed. She thought we were going to enjoy one another's company for the rest of the afternoon. While the lovely young woman's husband was mechanicing my wheel back on my wheelchair I saw my son circling the parking lot. I understood why he pretended there weren't any parking spots. How embarrassing to have your mother splayed all over the entrance to the bookstore with a homeless woman camped out beside her and a John scowling extra scowls on the sidelines. He waved to me, but I understood. The nice young man got the wheel back on and just as he was going to try to get me back up on the seat my son, who has a lot of wheelchair adjustment experience, materialized to pick me up in one fell swoop and put me back where I wasn't quite so embarrasssing. I thanked the young couple profusely and said goodbye to my son. 'Aren't you going home," my son asked. "You've got to be kidding. This is a bookstore. John has money in his pocket. I'm going in and buy some books." John kept the scowl, mumbled under his breath, grabbed the handles of the wheelchair, the homeless woman decided to continue on her journey, and my son went home in case his crazy mother needed to call him again. AND I went into the bookstore. I had a great time. I got to buy4 books!!!! I love to read.
PS: John had a good time too. He got 2 books and his coffee. The scowl softened to a crooked smile! and from that day since we carry a wheel re-attachment tool in my purse.