Friday, May 15, 2009

the elusive trip

I wish I could say that my trip to Florida was the best trip ever. Don’t get me wrong I had fun. I truly enjoyed almost every experience there. I didn’t particularly enjoy being what felt like a Pacman with ghost-creatures on my tail on the Florida highways and turnpikes. The drivers are incredibly bad and being on a road trip, we couldn’t really avoid car travel. It was stressful keeping safe.

I loved travelling with my Wife - living out one of my last wishes. It's weird calling it that. There was a screw up with the O2 supplier on, no surprise, the American side of things. I suffered a little but not enough to call the whole vacation off and head home. So I swallowed my pride a little and did the next best thing for my health: whenever there was a wheelchair available (stores, park tours, etc.) I sat in one. It's so much easier to use them when I'm thousands of miles from home than to be caught sitting in one here. There's so much less explaining to do and over there I don’t have to. My attitude towards most ignoramus Americans is that of disinterest. Yes I got looks: I'm thin (that erases the "too fat to walk" excuse), I'm young (that cancels being elderly as reason), and I'm smiley (OK, who wouldn't be under the sun?). Being in a wheelchair here is a whole other story. People ask you the most stupid questions.

Exactly ten years ago I had a fairly major surgery that screwed up. Long story short, the surgery went fabulously well, the recovery was awful. I had a hematoma because the cardiologist on call gave me what he’d give other (regular) cardiac patients (vitamin K). It coagulated my already thicker-than-syrup-blood. I had to have a second surgery just for their fuck-up and my wound was left open (to avoid any more hematomas). Let this be a lesson to all you cardiologists that think you can treat CHD’ (congenital heart defects) the same as (late) onset HD. (I told them I “really shouldn’t” get vit. K but what do I know, I’m just an artist!) The recovery process lasted almost 15 weeks, 8 of those were with an open wound. I was told to stay in bed for at least 5 weeks but of course as soon as I could safely sit up, week 4, I got hold of a wheelchair so I could at least get back to school to save my by then, part-time semester. I spent the next month to six weeks (it felt that long anyway) in a wheelchair zipping around Concordia (which by the way is not that accessible). I had acquaintances stop me in the hall and look at me puzzled like I just went through reconstructive facial surgery. Some drama-filled friends/people asked me what the hell happened "to" me. Treatment changed - I became a victim in their eyes - something I never ever want to be or ever thought I was. I don't want the "oh poor you" sympathy. It's not poor me, rather it's poor you that you can't see how it's like to live differently. I recall the gradual process of losing the chair. I graduated to a cane. I felt so free - I could come and go from my apartment, not depending on loved ones for rides, or on the special bus. It's then that I felt sympathy for most able-bodied people. Mobile, healthy people don't know the freedom they have to be just that: mobile and healthy. When people give me the poor me attitude, I just think, poor them for not seeing any other way of operating in this world.

Anyway, I had no shame is using a wheelchair in FL. I had a choice: I could fume and be completely and totally angry and the way they run things down there (and, stay in victim mode) or I could make do and be present under then hot sun with my smiley Wife. I chose the Wife and sun! I still think their systems are ridiculous at best. I still hate that I have to carefully plan how I will travel and even that could possibly not work. I still enjoyed my time under the sun though.

I found however that I kept checking in with my Wife. Checking with her not just about feeling weird pushing me around and not being able to hold my hand. (Wait just a minute, we didn’t hold hands at the best of times, except once in South Beach when we knew we were surrounded by Cuban Fags. After that it just didn’t feel safe: not with xtian ministries at every pit stop, gun shop signs and erratic driving!) I also checked in because this delicate west-coast gal is not used to heat. She spent her first 30 some odd years in a place that rarely gets above 28 Celsius and with an ocean breeze to take away any of that “hot sticky” feeling. Poor girl does not fair well during our Ottawa Valley summers, so of course, high nineties with a humidex of 80% or more did not suit her very well. I was more concerned with her exerting herself pushing me than anything else really.

Either way, I couldn't help feeling like a spoiled little princess being pushed to and fro. I know that wasn't the point but still. Some of the chairs on wheels actually look like either adult strollers or like those old Egyptian chariots. It's fun being like royalty but those chairs not allow the one seated to have any control (can't reach the wheels to push yourself to where you wanna go if you're left 'parked' while the pusher does something. The things we do to keep going...