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A Moment of Truth - The Thin Edge of Dignity

Senior Woman's Hand On Wheelchair
Hand On Wheelchair.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

My wheelchair and I have spent over a decade together.

Wait a moment. That’s not quite true.

Since a cushion first accepted my butt upon which to repose and with which to travel, I have had two wheelchairs, five cushions – and two backs. I highlight the backs because my new one, with curved sides to deter my dextroscoliosis, cost five hundred dollars or so.   A spendy assemblage, but consider: I spend all my waking hours in my chair. How much are your legs worth? Plus your car, computer chair, and La-Z-Boy?

Despite all the traveling, all the engaging with life’s activities, all the freedom I enjoy – notwithstanding all that I’ve made positive in my disabled condition, I want to walk, and all its auxiliary actions: running, biking, skiing. Just to be bi-pedal.

I examine what I’ve accomplished by my interminable sitting.

Since exercise has defined my adult life, I work-out every day.

Since I have spent my adult life as broadcaster, narrator, and actor, the sound and use of my voice has also defined me, I am a member of a community Reader’s Theater company.

Since my career has been spent as a university professor and devoted to education I belong to our community’s Adult Education program, where I volunteer on the Board of Directors and Committees on Curriculum and Public Information. I also volunteer in elementary school to help students in third grade  to read and write. I also read to the class. At a middle school, I have developed and conducted non-traditional learning projects for Talented and Gifted seventh grade classes.  And,  I co-teach courses at the university. Finally, I take courses as an Audit student.

Since becoming disabled, I have become an advocate for elders and the disabled: I serve on several national councils devoted to the betterment of Long Term Care. I have spoken to state and national organizations devoted to better living for aging citizens.  Because of my knowledge and skills in media communication, I have produced, written, and narrated a video documentary on my life in an Assisted Living Facility, and I write a blog for AARP Oregon – this essay being one of them.

I take my wheelchair with me when I go for Cappuccino and Conversation with long-time friends. It travels with me in the trunk of friends’ cars when I go to the movies, and attend plays, concerts, and lectures.

As I survey the landscape of the personal and social engagements that I live with my wheelchair, I’m grateful.

But - I still want to walk.

Dick Weinman is an AARP Oregon volunteer and our ALF guru.

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