July 14, 2014

Bobsledding the Staircase Dateline: Caregiver City, Planet Aphasia

It snowed last night. Oh, goodie! That means we'll get company later today. Last time it snowed the little girls next door came over and we made a deal. They'll shovel our front side walk and I'll pay them. But negotiating the price was a bit hairy. Some where during our corporate meeting, Girl Number One said, "We don't care what you pay us. We just want to help old people."

I was brought up believing that you can't slap little kids silly, so I plastered a pleasant look on my face and said, "Oh, isn't the sweet." But in my head I was holding back my Pit-Bull Mama persona who wanted to lunge at the girl, take her down to the ground and make her take the word "old" out of her sentence. Where in the name of the seventh sun did that come from? For crying out loud, I haven't even gotten my first social security check yet!

We have this deck that wraps two sides of the house and I was embarrassed to ask Girl Number One and Girl Number Two to include shoveling it into their bid for my business. No one in Michigan shovels their decks but me. I keep ours cleared because we have three doors that open out to it and you never know when you might have to escape from an axe murderer in the middle of the night. In situations like that, who's got the time to put on your boots before going outside? I also have a fear of seeing a newspaper highline that reads: "Wheelchair Bound Man Trapped in House Fire - Wife Didn't Shovel the Deck." So, I huff and I puff and make the snow disappear each time Old Man Winter poops on our deck.

Another fear I have involves being on an upper floor of a building with only one elevator. I developed this fear after a surprise fire drill during one of my husband's speech classes. Like good little sheep, we people pushing wheelchairs did what we were told and parked our mates on the landing of the staircase, waiting for the fireman to remember that we were part of the drill. In theory, they're supposed to carry the needy and injured down the three flights of stairs. Ya, sure. Worry wart that I am I'm absolutely sure that the firemen who'd show up in a real fire would have fears of getting hernias and they'd pass on by with an excuse that they have to axe out some windows. I have trust issues with axe wielding men.

Of course, we all know that staying on the upper level of a burning building with our wheelchair bound mates is a choice. And I hope I'll never have the following conversation with Don, my husband:

"Stay!" He'd bark out as the flames got closer.

"You mean go?!" People with the language disorder, aphasia, often say the exact opposite from what they mean to say.

He'd give me a long, confused look before enlightenment dawned. "Go!" he'd correct himself.

"No," I'd refuse while looking longingly down the staircase, "Not without you."

"Stay!" he'd plead more urgently. "No---go!"

Me, I'm always looking for alternate options so I'd probably consider taking off my pants and making a make-shift sling that another spouse and I could use to carry our mates down the staircase. If that didn't work, we could always stand at the top of the stairs, close our eyes and on the count of three, two of us at a time could push the wheelchairs off the edge, and hope for the best---holy mackerel, we have winner! George made it all the way down to the bottom. But the most do-able idea would probably be to abandon the wheelchairs, roll our spouses flat on their backs and tell them to stiffen up and pretend they are bobsleds. One by one each spouse could push-start their mate-turned-bobsled, jump on and ride them down the staircase. That would give new meaning to the term "two man bobsled team."

After that fire drill, I never viewed the principle of having a single elevator in the building in quite the same way. What if it broke while we're upstairs and it happens on a day when my cell phone's battery goes on strike and the weekend is coming and the maintenance people have all gone home early? It makes me goosepimply just thinking about. Just in case that happens, before going upstairs to one of Don's speech classes I now check my purse: Left-over fortunate cookies from Sunday in case we get hungry. Check. Suck-able candy in case Don's sugar drops. Check. Fingernail file in case I get bored. Check. Tiny tins of preserves from Cracker Barrel in case we find a piece of bread in the trash. Check. Kleenex in case we run out of toilet paper in the bathroom. Check. After my mental inventory, I deem us ready to take the elevator upstairs.

The door bell rang a few minutes ago and I expected to see Girl Number One and Girl Number Two come to shovel our snow. Instead, two other kids came to collect can goods for the poor. I gave them corn and spaghetti and wished I hadn't forced myself to eat lima beans last night.

"Life is good," I told my husband as I closed the front door behind the do-gooder kids, "They came to collect for the poor instead of deliver." ©

by Jean Riva

 This article was first published by Yahoo Contributors, in their humor section, but they are going out of business and the publishing rights have reverted back to me. So if it seems out of order to the rest of the content here, that's the reason. It was written before my husband passed away.

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