I fell asleep again last night in my recliner watching the late news. I woke up at some point long enough to flip off the TV and slipped right back into a good deep sleep. Woke up alert at 7AM, feeling refreshed like you should after a good nights sleep, feet not looking like the Stay Fresh Marshmallow Man (makes a difference having the feet above the heart) and gave me a good 90 minute energetic start on the day. I am going to have to deal with the reality soon that my bed is pretty close to death. Takes me about twenty minutes to work myself out of that one and seldom energetically. It was a very good bed ten years ago but then I was a very different person ten years ago.
I am one of those who retire early due to advanced decrepitude of a body that tolerated fifty-five years of the results of polio. I am part of a new phenomenon, disabled seniors. And from my frame of reference a disabled senior is different from a senior experiencing age related health deterioration. I’m talking about people who have grown up with some form of disability who are now hitting retirement age. I am so looking forward to the return of the long form census so we can actually see what these numbers will look like. I’m also pretty sure I will get someone who will be upset with the use of the term “disabled senior” because it should be senior first and disabled second blah, blah, blah but at this point in my life I don’t have time for political correctness.
Anyway fifty-seven years of utilizing a body in a way it wasn’t designed to has a price. I know the math doesn’t add up but I was a 3 year old when I contracted polio and really have little memory of anything before polio. And I just look at it like polio, not disability. This has always been my life, society’s perception of my “disability” is purely that, perception. With that said let’s keep moving forward.
Shoulders and elbows were never designed to be weight bearing joints so almost fifty years on crutches takes a toll. My body also endured an often gluttonous and hedonistic lifestyle by its young driver, so I will take some responsibility for having to move into early retirement.
I was fifty-seven at the time and not as ready for retirement as I should have been. I wasn’t as prepared financially, mentally or really in any other way for retirement but I had to deal with the reality of life. The hardest part of retiring, I think, is not having activities that fill time. I’m not a golfer, I don’t take long walks on the beach and mountain pathways just don’t cut it. This lack of activity plus unused time in the day gives a person a lot of time for retrospection. When you take a retrospective person with a love of social media you discover an inexpensive retirement activity that keeps me mentality active. My body, on the other hand, is paying for some doctors kids university…
By the early 90’s I was becoming increasingly dependent on my wheelchair. My joints just were not up to crutch use anymore. What I didn’t realize at the time was that as my physical capabilities were decreasing my growing and active son had increasing physical demands. He, like most ten and eleven year olds of that day, was involved in two or three sports. The Internet was still in its infancy so the kids were outside more. My wife at the time took him to all of the soccer games, baseball practices, etc while I spend a lot of time watching sporting events from inside my car with a pair of binoculars. Gravelled parking lots and dirt trails are not that enticing to a wheelchair but I always had little twinges of guilt over my level of involvement with his physical activities however you keep moving forward. I had been conditioned on that one since childhood.
I remember physio time as a child, everyday for an hour in the morning and again after noon nap. From physio we went to our classrooms in the hospital where we studied the same curriculum as any other Alberta school of the day. One of the group activities in physio for those on crutches was to line up in front of tumbling matts (in the 60’s a tumbling matt was a thin mattress filled with batting)while facing a wall of mirrors. The field of physiotherapy, as we now know it, was a
profession in development. Many of the physio’s at the Children’s Hospital had come from veterans rehab centres and with the number of polio kids in the 50’s/60’s, job growth looked good. Anyway I digress, the physiotherapist would then walk along behind us and, at random (I hope, now that I look at it in hindsight), they would push one of us. We never knew who would be pushed but the purpose was to learn how to fall.
We would do that for about fifteen minutes until every one of us (8 to 10 kids) had been pushed over at least once. They hadn’t attached the title of “muscle memory” to it yet. Being a rather outspoken 11 year old at the time I did “challenge” the concept and the physio’s would always respond, “It’s not about the falling down, it’s about getting back up and moving on”. So I imagine it is fair to say that the “moving on” philosophy was well ingrained in my core belief system early in life. Having trained and worked as a cognitive therapists in the 80’s I pay a lot of attention to my own belief systems and how they impact my decisions.
It really is amazing what one can discover about themselves when they look at the foundation of their past. The biggest realization I have had to date was that my wheelchair dependency was when I first became disabled. I just didn’t recognize it at the time. I went from a life time of doing whatever I wanted to on my crutches to a whole new world of restriction I hadn’t even noticed before.
I still enjoy the luxury, with some limitations, of being able to walk around on my knees. And it is only for that reason that my “wheelchair accessible” apartment works for me. Accessibility is a wheelchair is very different for someone on crutches and yet we think we are speaking the same language.
Just one mans opinion!