Courage at Twilight: Rack and Pinion

I arise at 6:00 a.m. (ideally), slip on my gym clothes, and slink down the stairs without a sound to sit on the stationary bicycle.  I must read when I ride or I go mad with boredom and from focusing on the discomfort of hard exercise.  But Dad’s room is immediately adjacent, and the light would strike him fully in the sleeping face.  My headlamp is the answer.  I puff as I push and as I read N.T. Wright’s New Testaments translations and commentaries, and Dad is none the wiser (though I certainly hope I am).  But today the headlamp became moot, and I flipped the light switch on.  We are poorer in the pocket, but enriched with new possibilities for mobility and independence.  The stair lift finally has been installed.  And the taste is sour-sweet.  As Dad held the lever in the “up” position, the chair he sat slumped in rose slowly to the landing, pivoted 90 degrees, and carried him to the top of the staircase.  He ascended with a vacant emotionless expression.  Dad has new independence, even with increased weakness.  Dad has improved mobility, even with increased paralysis and pain.  Dad carries a dual humiliation: the marathon runner who cannot walk; sitting hunched in a chair, himself motionless, being rack-and-pinioned to the second floor.  Not a time of celebration.  Rather, a time of adjustment to a new tool and to a new routine, a time of relief with the decreased risk of ending his life horribly by falling down the stairs, a time to confront the fact that he will never climb the stairs again under his own power.  I asked for the opportunity to talk through how bedtime would now work, not just for him, but for Mom and me also, and I thought we settled on moving toward the stair lift and toward bed at 10:30 p.m. after the nightly news.  But discovered that he had settled on reading until midnight and moving himself achingly with his not-a-walker to transfer to the stair lift and push the “up” paddle, to push his heavy-duty blue walker to his bed, where he climbed in next to his sweetheart for the first time in ten long weeks, without an ounce of worry from me because of the lift.  A cause for celebration after all.  Four-year-old Gabe joined me in my own celebratory ride by sitting on my lap as I held the paddle in the “up” position and we rack-and-pinioned our way slowly up the stairs.

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