An Opportunity to Pause and Reflect on the Holiday Season Just Passed…..

This article is for all my fellow middleagers – those of us who still think we’re teenagers, know we are most definitely NOT seenagers* but in reality,  are instead stuck in the middle. We’re in the statistically average “middle” of our lives, with a little too much “middle” around the middle (if you know what I mean!) We’re 50+ and often still find ourselves ferrying about both young ones to school or part time jobs and our parents to Doctor’s appointments and groceries. If I thought I put a lot of miles on the car when the kids were in hockey and dance, it turns out that was mere child’s play compared to making sure my seenager Mom gets to the grocery store, holiday shopping, chair yoga class and whichever of the many doctors it is that she has to see this week! My days of stroller pushing have given way to wheelchair pushing and driving to the arena replaced by two new sports: 1) The game of “how close can we get to the door to let Mom out during a winter storm?” and 2) “How to avoid making eye contact with the folks giving you an evil glare for using Mom’s handicapped sticker when clearly you personally don’t need one?” At 50+, life on wheels has come full circle.

I remember vividly my alternating feelings of frustration and relief when I had to take a toddler shopping with me. Stroller’s, once assembled, without swearing lest that be the only word your child actually repeats, over and over, as you manoeuvre around the mall, (I may or may not be speaking from experience) actually made shopping easy. You had somewhere to hang all of your bags or you could stow them underneath. Heck, if you had to, you could even place smaller items in and around your baby or toddler depending on how preoccupied you kept them with bags full of goldfish to snack on. It made holiday shopping a dream. Well, not actually a dream since negotiating a stroller through throngs of holiday shoppers is a nightmare but at least you weren’t ALSO lugging heavy bags and setting your shoulders up for a lifetime of future osteoarthritis pain.

Fast forward twenty years and here you are on wheels again – this time pushing around your senior parent. Sure they can walk on their own two feet and they remind you of that fact constantly but you were shopping for the holidays this year – not next year and time’s a-wasting! So off to customer service you go, leaving your exorbitant deposit on a store loaner wheelchair which your germaphobic mother then insists on wiping down with half a bottle of Purell and some balled up Kleenex from the bottom of her purse before she’ll deign to be seated in it. Once planted and with a firm “No thank you, I’ll hold my handbag myself” to your offer of letting it dangle off the wheelchair arm, you’re good to go. Soon your shopping like nobody’s business running from store to store and getting stuff done! It’s good to be back on wheels you think to yourself. Somewhere to hang the bags, your shoulders aren’t overburdened and your Mom’s not even asking for a snack! Then, just as suddenly, you realize the store you need is on the second level and while the escalator is right in front of you, the only elevator in the whole freaking mall is about 1km walk in the opposite direction. Maybe life on wheels isn’t so easy after all. Combined with the fact that loaner wheelchairs are certainly nothing fancy and if you are a tad on the taller side like me, you won’t have sore shoulders to worry about but rather, now resembling the hunchback of Notre Dame as you push it and your mother around, it’s your back that will give out instead.

The other big difference, coming as no surprise to anyone, is that adults on wheels are a whole lot more independent than toddlers on wheels. If my Mom decides she wants to see something, being seated in a wheelchair wherever I parked her as I paid for my purchases is no impediment and there’s no telling how far she’ll get. I recall vividly in one store losing her for a good five minutes because, as it turns out, she’s pretty darn resourceful at using one foot to propel herself around the store. She’s also pretty resourceful at using her cane to reach for things on high shelves and by resourceful I mean dangerous. But that’s a story for another day.

Another unintended consequence of wheelchair shopping is forgetting just how much you are going to have to carry once you return the wheelchair to the customer service booth, get your license and deposit back and have to walk another 1km to the opposite end of the mall. (Side note to mall designers everywhere: put wheelchairs and stroller rentals near the exits – PLEASE!) You offer to run and grab the car, and risk the stares once again as you climb in to your vehicle, but Mom insists that with all the “rest” she just had, she can walk to the car perfectly fine thank you very much. Sure it takes another 45 minutes and you’re now hot flashing like a tropical island during a heat wave as you carry all the bags like the pack mule you are but you gotta admire Mom’s “independence” (AKA stubbornness.) At least now you won’t be subjected to the handicapped parking sticker stare-down. Feeling less and less joyful about the holiday season, your only solace now is knowing that in another 20 or 30 years – life on wheels will come full circle again only this time it’ll be your kids pushing you around the mall in a wheelchair. If you’re really lucky, you’ll have a brief interlude of pushing your grandchildren around in a stroller first. Aren’t you glad the holidays are over?!

*A Seenager is variously someone between the ages of about 65 – 95 who, much like a teenager, gets an allowance (this time from the government) has a licence to drive (woohoo!), eats whatever they want, whenever they want, goes to movies and typically bucks authority – just because they can! It’s like being a teenager – with experience.

 By: Sheralyn Roman 

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