Monday, 2 May 2016

Patio Life

I moved into my apartment in October, 2012. I could still walk, albeit with a cane. My apartment, at that time, was definitely not wheelchair friendly. At that time I didn't think I would ever need a wheelchair. About 5 weeks after moving in, I was diagnosed with ALS; it's hard to imagine that it all happened that quickly. Just a few months later, I was in a wheelchair, never to walk again.

When I moved into my apartment, one of the things which was of modest interest to me was the small balcony. It was cold and wintery when I moved in, so I figured I would use it in the spring and summer of the next year. Unfortunately by the time the weather had improved sufficiently to allow for patio life, I was in the wheelchair. The small balcony on my apartment has a large step to get over before you access it. The balcony itself is barely wide enough for wheelchair access. So I gave up on the idea.

Over the last few years I've tried different methods to access my barbecue, set up as it was on the balcony. Once or twice over the years I've tried placing it in the doorway, so I could cook on it without leaving the living room. A few other times I've had other people do the cooking while I looked on from inside. But all of that stopped a couple of years back. I just gave up. It felt like way too much trouble to access the small balcony and cook on the barbecue.

Then, this weekend, a bunch of my friends came over to bottle wine, and cook dinner. We had decided to have a hot dog party. Now understand that a hot dog party entails a lot more than a few wieners and buns. We had a ton of food, as is usual for my parties. The guys in charge of food preparation decided they wanted to use the barbecue to do the hot dogs. So one of them cleaned it up, and tided the balcony, and then cooked all the sausages outside.

I sat there and watched the whole operation, and suddenly thought to myself, "I could probably get out there if I really wanted to." I thought about what would be needed and realized it was almost nothing. All we really had to do was clear away the patio chairs which blocked my turning radius, and move the barbecue back a few feet to give me more room to turn. The biggest problem would be a small table to hold my coffee, or wine, or beer, or lunch.

Yesterday, that's exactly what Katherine and I did, although she did most of it. She moved the chairs and barbecue, then cleaned the floor. That's when I rolled into action. I found that I could still pop my wheelchair up enough to get it over the sill, and with a small amount of effort I could turn sideways. There I was, sitting on my balcony, enjoying the sunshine. We even cooked salmon on the barbecue for our dinner guests, and ourselves too.

It's easy for me to get locked into a place where I think things are just too difficult, just too much effort for too little reward. When I moved in here, it was winter; no balcony. When I went in the wheelchair, there was too little reward; no balcony. Then Katherine came along, helped me out, and encouraged me to make the effort. Suddenly a whole new way to enjoy the sunshine and outdoors is open to me. ALS will eventually take this away from me for real, but not right now. I'm going to enjoy that balcony while I can.

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