Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Glass Half Full

I’ve been taking myself on drives. For coffee. And chocolate. And creosote smells. Anything to make me a happier wife when sweet thing comes home.  I confess. Too little time with my baby who ‘owes his soul to the company store’ makes me a little beastly sometimes at his expense. On the upside, I’m pretty sure we can deduct it on our taxes this year and call it a business expense.
What was he thinking 37 years ago? Not only is he tired, but he has his hands full dealing with that melancholy temperament/menopausal/emptynested/ tormented writer wife he pledged his life to.   If only he’d known what he was getting himself into—he could have been a mercenary or a monk instead, and had all his dreams come true. Silly boy.
So. Driving.  It soothes the savage beast in me. Especially when I head away from other motorists. This morning curiosity got the best of me and took me on a slow, meandering drive into some desert foothills near our home. 
“I wonder where this road goes?” I thought to myself.  And Myself replied, “I wonder if you have enough gas to find out?” 
Myself is a pessimist.
I rolled down the windows and sucked in deep breaths of coolness and creosote and even a little moisture.  There’s a fine film of green on the desert floor right now, thanks to some recent spring rains.  It’s as close as we get to actual grass, but we’ll take it.  If you squint when you look at it, it reminds you—to get some counseling for being delusional.  This is the desert.  Even I have to tell myself it’ll be hot next week and to stop dreaming about verdant foliage.
I told you Myself is a pessimist.
The drive past saguaros and through rolling hills did the trick, though, and—just to appease Myself—I did the sensible thing after the descent back to reality and pulled into a gas station to refuel.  I thought that just meant buying gas.
It meant more.
I turned off the engine, parking behind a minivan whose driver was just finishing up at the pump. She put the cap back on her gas tank, replaced the gas nozzle, and turned her wheelchair around, rolling up to her driver’s door.
I’ve never seen anyone pump gas from a wheelchair before.
It must have taken her twice as long as other drivers to fill up her van, but she had it down pat. I watched her hoist herself into the driver’s seat and remotely open the sliding door behind her. A small crane extended out the side of the van—close enough for her to secure the chair—and the whole thing slowly disappeared inside her vehicle. The door closed quietly on its own. Then the woman pulled away, merging into a morning full of traffic that didn’t care about her disability, treating her with the same disrespect they give every other driver during rush hour.
From inside her van, the ground is level.
I watched the whole scene with tears rolling down my face. It was a baptism of admiration and not a little bit of shame. How does a woman with two working legs tell a woman pumping gas from her wheelchair that life is hard sometimes and the desert turns brown too fast and getting older isn’t for sissies?
It’s okay.  It’s a rhetorical question. 
I just wanted you to know I recognized the contrast.  I know who left the gas station this morning with a handicap.  And who left with a wheelchair.
Myself begins rehab today.
Photo courtesy of Cayusa's photostream at flickr.com

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