Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Charlotte Noticed.

There is nothing good about having ALS. There are no positives that come with this disease. There are, however, important lessons to be learned, unique activities that go with being confined to a wheelchair. Some of these are actually pretty neat, fun, interesting. It's not that you have to have ALS and be confined to a wheelchair to experience them. It's just that healthy people are not likely to approach the world in the same ways.

Yesterday was a good example. I wanted to get out a do a bunch of errands. I wanted to spend some time with my granddaughter, Charlotte. So I had her climb up onto my lap while I was in the power wheelchair, and we set out to explore and do errands together that way. It was a five hour journey. It was also pretty terrific.

Our first step was to go across the street to the mall. The new Home Sense store was having its Grand Opening. I wanted to see what was new and different. So did my daughter, Meaghan. So off we rolled. On arrival at the store, Meaghan and Charlotte took the escalator up to the store while I waited for the elevator. Charlotte noticed. Then, wheeling through the store, there were several times where aisleways were blocked with boxes of new merchandise. Sometimes we moved them. Sometimes we went a different way. Charlotte noticed.

After we left Home Sense, Meaghan went back to my apartment while Charlotte and I headed out to conquer Calgary. Our first destination was KenRon Pharmacy, near Foothills Hospital, with our route taking us right through the University of Calgary campus. As we headed that way, we came across road and sidewalk construction, around which we were forced to detour. No problem, except that the sidewalk ramps were uncertain. We ended up on a sidewalk but had to get off and go down the road because there was no ramp at the corner. We eventually made our way past the construction and onto the University pathways.

The route I like to take is past the Olympic Oval; well, not actually past it as much as directly through the lobby of the Olympic Oval as a shortcut. We did just this, at which point Charlotte said she wanted to see the ice rink, something I have never bothered to do. So up the elevator we went, with Charlotte commenting on how the elevator was almost too small for the wheelchair. We went over to the observation area, where we saw speed skaters practicing on the ring. Excitement! We stayed and watched for a bit, something else I have never bothered to do.

After the University, we continued on our way to the pharmacy. As we crossed 16th Avenue, I pointed out Foothills Hospital to Charlotte, telling her that was where I went when I got sick. She asked why I got sick so much, and I told her it was ALS that caused it. She said "Grandpa, I'm sorry you got this disease."

KenRon was uneventful. Our next intended stop was the Banff Trail C-Train station. We rolled along the 16th Avenue sidewalk, crossing the Crowchild overpass. It was there we discovered that the sidewalk turned into a lane separator with the only exit method being a set of stairs. We had to go back. Neither Charlotte nor I were impressed with this blockade.

We made a rather large detour though the parking lot of McMahon Stadium, home to the Calgary Stampeders. Charlotte noticed and commented on how long the detour was, and how easy it was if we could just go up the stairs. I agreed with her. Eventually we made our way to the ramp and crossed the overpass to the C-Train station. I had to warn her that not all the train cars had wheelchair access and we might have to miss a train if we couldn't get to the door on time. Fortunately the train was one of the new ones, with wheelchair access at every door. Charlotte noticed.

Our next stop was the Liquor Depot in Brentwood. This was an uneventful stop, even fun. The elevator at the train station was working. The wait wasn't all that long. The roll over to the store had only a couple of sidewalk interruptions. We navigated. It was in the store where Charlotte started to help once again. I cannot carry that many things, so Charlotte became the puller of the cart, a task she reveled in.

We did our shopping and headed off to Walmart, another uneventful trip down relatively smooth sidewalks. For one part we went right down the middle of the road because of the bumps on the sidewalk; this was a cul-de-sac, so there was no traffic to bother us. We eventually arrived at Walmart, where Charlotte helped me pick out some rather colourful new underwear and a black pair of soft lounge pants. We rolled our way through the mall, heading home.

Our next stop was at a local park where she spent the better part of an hour swinging, climbing, jumping, running... all the things a six and a half year old would love to do. I rested. I needed a rest. Charlotte found a couple of friends her own age whose mother was right beside me. They had a dog. She played with her new friends, and with their dog. When the time came to go home, she jumped back up on my lap without complaint. We headed off.

The last segment of the trip was uneventful, except for Charlotte's complaint about being hungy. It was then I realized that Charlotte and I had been rolling about for five hours. Were I a healthy man, I might have not taken her at all. Instead I would have hopped into my truck, completing the round of errands in perhaps an hour, perhaps less. Had I taken her, she certainly would have stayed in the truck for at least a couple of the stops. Were it not for the wheelchair, Charlotte would not have noticed what she noticed, seen what she got to see, or played for an hour in that park.

Being in a wheelchair forces me to slow down. When it comes to having a small grandchild, this is probably a good thing. You don't have to have ALS to do this. Were it not for having ALS, I likely would not have done this. I am not sure what Charlotte would have noticed about that.

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