Wheeling in the Year 1/09

January 2009

wheelchair

It’s 5:30 a.m., December 30. The temperature is 30 below zero; it’s snowing. I have to get my 81-year-old maman to the airport for a flight that leaves at 7:28 a.m.

With a late departure from home and my cautious, law-abiding husband at the wheel, we arrive at the airport a little short of the hour recommended. It’s no big deal, except that the baggage check lineup is about four blocks long.

This isn’t so bad either, except that my mother has weak legs at the best of times and she is completely exhausted from the holidays. She is also legally blind, so I am her eyes and potentially her legs – her guide through this maze, albeit not a really good one.

After I nearly take mom out at the knees with her suitcase, not once, but twice, we finally find the end of the line. I’m doing my best rendition of calm and positive on the outside, and doing a full-on, freak-out on the inside.

I spot an airport employee at a distance and desperately request a wheelchair or a way out of this lineup. Not only is a wheelchair provided, but so, too, is a detour to the front of the line. And who knew that wheelchairs have a special lineup through security? I sprint my mom to the loading gate like Moses parting the Red Sea, arriving a cozy eight minutes before takeoff. Luckily, but not surprisingly, they haven’t boarded yet. Yes, a late flight! I make a mental note that perspective is everything.

Speaking of perspective, there’s nothing like this airport adventure and a New Year ripe with opportunity to cause thoughtful reflection. Here are just a few questions that come to mind:

  • Do you cringe at the thought of being dependent? Hanging on to independence is probably one of the best ways of staying young and able, but there can come a time where you will need to call in support.
  • Will you have someone you can count on to take care of you? My eldest child has already delegated that job to his younger brother.
  • How do you want to reach old age? Fit and supple? Wealthy and wise?
  • What are you doing NOW to make that happen?
  • What’s Plan B? My mother’s loss of eyesight was out of her control and is still largely a mystery. No one intends to succumb to dementia, wheelchairs or full time nurses.
  • What’s good about any of this? Gratitude comes to mind. I’m grateful for the airport service we received, my mother’s sense of humor and plucky determination, my legs that can still sprint, my eyes that can still see, as well as my perspective for which I will always have control. I know that the sun is always shining above the cloud layer. I’m grateful for the breath that runs through me. And as I always say, if you still have a pulse there’s still time to create change.

Some people don’t seem to change, despite their age. I recently heard a radio interview with Montreal born writer Mavis Gallant. She’s 85 years old, amazingly vibrant and sharp as a tack. I was quite taken with Mavis. I was reminded how it’s not only important for me to be fit and healthy in body as I age, I want to be sharp. If Mavis is my ideal, I might have some catching up to do!

I encourage you to think about why you might want to live long and well. What is it you want: to travel, to golf into the sunset, to dance at your grandson’s wedding? Why is this important to you? The answers will provide motivation to take the necessary actions.

If you’re lucky, your life path will be long. Every year, every month, every day, every hour, and every minute of every day offers new opportunities for change and growth, keeping you on the path instead of under it. If you don’t know what you want, remember, it’s a new year. It’s a great time to work on that. If you do know what you want, just keep moving. Don’t ever give up. Sometimes you get a free ride to the front of the line.

Hey, asking for support always helps.