Monday, June 28, 2010

Wheelchair Excess

Saturday was a special day for the family as Jordan graduated from high school. Family from all over came to celebrate the big day, and let her know how proud of her we are.

The graduating class was large - about 270 kids. With the marching in, the speeches, more speeches and more than half an hour just to hand out diplomas, it was sure to be a long ceremony. We decided that I would bring Peg about 40 minutes late to cut down some of the backside-breaking time. And, if we're honest about the whole thing, we're mostly there just to see our kid get the paper.

Also, because the ceremony was at the field house of the Rochester Institute of Technology, we picked up a wheelchair for the day so Peg wouldn't have to walk so far and also to eliminate the chance of getting jostled when the crowd exits.

There turned out to be one slight problem. When we had picked up the wheelchair the foot and leg supports were not attached. It didn't seem like a big deal to me but when we took it out in the RIT parking lot, it became a very big deal. Let's just say it was very similar to the first time I was handed a Rubik's Cube.

I should add that Jordan's brother Chris and his girlfriend Lesley hitched a ride with us. I should add that information so that I don't appear to be the only dumb one who failed this particular intelligence test. For we tried every combination we could think of and yet still the foot supports were sticking straight out in the air or only worked if your leg was 2 yards long. At one point - and this is after 5 minutes of trying to figure it out - Chris and I realized we weren't even sure which one was the left and which one was the right.

You need to remember that we are already well into the graduation ceremony and the clock was ticking. Peg was getting so antsy she finally said to forget the foot supports and she would just hold her feet off the ground. Fortunately, Chris and I finally made a correct decision at that point and told her No.

Then, as so often happens when you keep fiddling around with things that are supposed to go together but just won't, something magic happens. Without knowing precisely what he did, Chris got the right-side support on. "Wow!" we both said. I handed him the left-side support. Of course, since we weren't 100% sure of what had happened on the other side, that didn't quite go on the way it was supposed to.

But it was close enough that we figured Peg could put both feet on the right and no one would notice that the left support was sticking up about 10 inches higher. And hey, it was better than having to hold her feet off the ground while we wheeled her into the ceremony.

As we finally moved to the field house, I am pretty sure Peg was thanking her lucky stars that Chris came along with us. I know I was. Particularly because I kept hearing in my mind the conversation of the night before when LK asked if I didn't think I should take the wheelchair out and make sure I could assemble it. "No," I had said, "that won't be necessary. I'm sure it's a very simple thing to do."

Yesterday I told my mother about my inability to figure out the wheelchair assembly. She is so sweet and understanding, and even though I'm 62 and not a kid anymore, she tries to make me feel better when I am an abject failure at doing something.

"Well," she said, "you're so smart in other things, you shouldn't feel bad that there's something that you're not so good at."

I told her that may be true, but I was finding out that in retirement there wasn't much demand for literary criticism or editing skills. "It seems like most of the time you're being asked to fix a leak or put up a shelf. I can't remember the last time Linda yelled out 'Donald, can you come in here. I'm reading a poem and need help interpreting it'."

Mom laughed at that. "See," she said, "you're also so funny." Which I guess is its own merit. Certainly the security guards who watched me trying to assemble the wheelchair had had a good laugh, too.

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