Tuesday, September 25, 2012

On Saying Good Bye...

The note I wrote to accompany Shelia, my old wheelchair, as she began her new life as a loaner in the durable medical equipment recycling program.

This is Shelia, named after a ninety eight year old friend who refused to enter a nursing home after being hospitalized with the flu.  She’s been through hell and back with me.  She doesn’t climb hills or do non-macadam sidewalks well.  Have someone behind you on these surfaces.  Most ramps are okay.  Her average battery charge is 20 minutes to half an hour, so always, always carry the charger with you.  Restaurants and malls are good about letting you charge up in my experience.
If you don’t appreciate the stickers, simply get a piece of cloth and drape it over them.  Drive one is my indoor gear.  Drive 2 is faster.  Please keep in mind that the average chair life span is 5 years and she’s 11.  I think that’s a pretty good run.

If you have problems, feel free to call.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

An imaginary adolescent's essay

Author’s Note:  This a class essay written by my short story Magic? ‘s main character who’s 13.  My colleagues in at the online science fiction and fantasy workshop send this passage was extraneous, but I liked it too much to delete it.  Therefore, I’m posting it here.  If you want to read more, let me know.  I have some more scenes, but the story is nowhere near completed

            I can’t imagine life without Stasi.  I’ve known her since the womb.  We were born on the same day.  We even have the same name, Anastasia Eliza.  We both hate math, although Stasi hates the subject and I just hate Mr. Kirkland.   We’re both night owls who love cheesy science fiction movies.  We both keep journals, even though I’m more serious about it than Stasi.  We’re both more likely to buy outfits at second-hand store than the mall.  We’ve both been volunteering since forever.   I guess it’s genetic.  As kids, we’d sorted can goods at a homeless shelter and collected medical supplies to send to Africa.  Now I spend Sundays at the animal shelter taking care of abandoned pets and Stasi answers the phone at the Disability Law Center on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.

            My mom sometimes teases us that we’re a matching set, but anyone who’s known us for more than 15 minutes can see we’re not clones. She’s short, plump, and loves to be the center of attention.  I’m more reserved and my dad calls me willowy, but I’m really just tall and skinny. My skin is the color of a chocolate bar and my waist length long black hair is usually loose.  Stasi has Nordic skin accented by flaxen hair that gets chopped off the moment it touches her shoulders that she always braids or puts in a ponytail.  Stasi would eat candy for breakfast if her parents let her.  I’m a salad fan, although I like ice cream as much as anybody. I hate the outdoors.  Stasi goes camping every chance she gets and rides her handcycle (a special bike for people in wheelchairs) on the bike path whenever it’s warm enough.  She’s even on a wheelchair orienteering team!  And, of course, there’s the wheelchair thing but I don’t usually even think about that.

            I guess it fate that we’re best friends.  Our mothers were assigned to share a room their freshman year at Bard and have been inseparable ever since. They shared an apartment in Boston while my mom went to law school at Boston College and Lana went to the Massachusetts College of Art to get her MFA in three dimensional art.

              Stasi’s dad was in my mom’s labor law class second year.  She had a crush on him so she invited him over for dinner one night.   Five minutes after Rich and Lana met, my poor mom knew she didn’t have a chance.  Lucky for her, Rich felt bad so he invited her and Lana out to dinner and bought my dad along, who’d been his best friend since kindergarten or something.  He was a high school English teacher in Roxbury, who was doing activism with universal health care movement and writing a novel.   My mom always says it’s lucky that Rich didn’t like her, because she would have hated to break his heart and dump him for his best friend.  I guess it was lucky for me and Stasi, too.

            Two years later, they had a double wedding and spent their honeymoon building an elementary school in Honduras.  Then they moved to Rembrandt because the rent was cheap. Lana could have a studio while my mom and Rich opened a law firm “that put people’s needs ahead of profit margins” without everyone ending up homeless.

            While mom and Rich were busy righting wrongs, my dad and Lana got teaching jobs at the local alternative high school to keep the lights on.  The four of them lived in a small two bedroom apartment and became vegetarians because it saved money.  Then my mom got pregnant with me and everything changed.  Where would I sleep?  How could they afford clothes, car seats, and all the other things I would need?  How could my mom work 80-hour weeks and take care of me? And if she couldn’t, who would?

            In the end, the shelves were removed from a fortunately large hallway closet and my crib was moved in.  At her baby shower, all of my mom’s friends painted a picture to hang on the walls of the tiny room.   My mom remembers Lana saying, “With all the attention you’re getting, I almost want to a kid.”  Someone must have been listening because 8 weeks later my mom was planning her baby shower. 

            My mom’s water broke on January 4th at 2:33 AM.  Even though Stasi wasn’t due for almost three months, Lana’s followed 45 minutes later.  Lana always says it was because Stasi didn’t want to be stuck inside her stomach while I was having so much fun outside.   Stasi’s doctors said that being born early is what caused her Cerebral Palsy, I used to feel bad that Stasi had to be in a wheelchair just because she wanted to follow me, like maybe I should have waited for her. 

            My mom said Stasi was just making up her own mind about when to enter the world and who was I to tell her any different.  I guess she’s right; it was none of my business.  Besides, once Stasi makes up her mind about something, you’re better off just getting out of the way no matter what you think.   

            Once Stacy came home from the hospital, about a month after I did, she moved into the crib with me.  For the first four weeks Stasi was home, Lana had maternity leave and took care of us.  After that, my dad took us to work with him in the morning, so Lana could work in her studio until she had to teach in the afternoon.  We went to the learning laboratory day care, when students helped childcare workers take care of kids, until he was done teaching.  Then he would pick us up and take care of us until he handed us off to Lana at around 5:00.  Then he would correct papers and write while Lana watched us until around 8:30 when my mom came home.  Mom and Rich did most of the weekend childcare to give dad and Lana a break.  They took us to the playground and to watch little league games.  The four of them had a rotating schedule of who would get up with us at night.  Our parents like to joke that their first year of parenting was a group project.