The story I wrote about my having been confined to a wheelchair at age three was mostly true. In this post, I’m going to tell you the whole truth and a little bit more.
I was supposed to tell 4 bold-face lies as part of this writing project, but I told more truth than lies.
Below is a copy of my story. I underlined the parts that are NOT true. The whole truth is in blue.
I was confined to a wheelchair, as a result of a childhood bone disease when I was a toddler. The doctors told my mother I might never walk again. I hated that chair! My brother, who is ten years older than me, used to take me and my little chair on wheels to the top of our steep road, which was deep in the mountains. My two older sisters would stand at the top of the road, holding my chair, with me in it of course, until my brother made it to the bottom. He would count to some number, which was their clue to let me go. I would fly down that mountain in my little chair! It was great fun! The best I can remember, my brother always caught me. My mother didn’t mind this game. I wasn’t happy the day I put my foot on the floor and was able to walk again because I had to give up my little flying chair.
“A little doll’s chair,” is what my mother says the wheelchair looked like. “It was just so small. It didn’t look like it was for a person.”
I had Kohler disease, which is a rare childhood bone disease. It attacked my ankle bone when I was three years old. The doctors did tell my mother I may never walk again, but they also told her that it could go away as mysteriously as it had appeared.
I didn’t hate the wheelchair. I’m pretty sure I loved it. My mother says that I had crawled around for several weeks before she, “put her foot down,” and demanded that I be taken to the nearest hospital for x-rays.
Putting weight on my foot was intolerable. The little chair gave me freedom to go outside and play. At three years old, I guess you live in the moment. I was too young to understand what never being able to walk again meant. I was also too young to know the danger of flying down that road, but then sometimes, our memories play tricks on us.
About ten years ago, my mother and I visited the place we lived when I was in that wheelchair. There was a housing complex with relatively small one story dwellings that was turned into offices for the Juvenile boys home. My dad worked there and we had lived in the complex, which was for the employees and their families.
Mother and I were both a bit shocked. The metal fence surrounding the property surprised her. It was one of those tall fences with thick rolls of barbed-wire on top. The place hadn’t been fenced in when we lived there.
I remembered the houses being massive with tall and wide dark windows.
“There’s our house,” Mother said. There weren’t any big houses and the windows were those small rectangular ones you see in beach houses.
I remembered front porch being high up off the ground. I sat on the steps every day, weather permitting, with my three year-old boyfriend, talking and waiting for the school bus to drop off my older siblings. I remember being happy when he was there. We were the best of friends and had terrific conversations about life.
There were only two steps, very close to the ground. I couldn’t believe how much bigger things were in my memory than they were in reality.
I looked for the steep road where I took the wheelchair flights. Mother pointed out our road.
“That’s it!” I was completely astonished. It was indeed a hill, but didn’t measure up by any means to the one I recalled.
I told her about flying down the mountain road. She says she didn’t know anything about that. I sure remember it. My sisters say they remember too, but oddly, my brother doesn’t and he’s the oldest. I think he forgot many things he did to his younger sisters. Like the time he put me in a garbage can and rolled me into the road, but that was later and it was a country road.
I remember clearly the day I put my foot on the floor, which I did every morning, and it didn’t hurt anymore. The pain was gone! The bone disease went away just like the doctors said it might.
I didn’t mind giving up the little chair, but I did think I should get to keep it for a souvenir. I remember wanting it. Mother says she didn’t think I needed it and donated it to another family.
My ensuing enthusiasm for using my legs was grand. At age five, I led a large marching band in the Christmas parade because the band leader said I was, “the best little marcher they ever had!” I took jazz and modern dance classes, but then we moved to the country. Dancing the way I had learned would have been considered a sin. This disappointed me, but I soon discovered bluegrass and clogging, the latter of which was a required class in the elementary school I attended.
I didn’t have a bicycle though. I’d had one when I was five, but then my brother got involved. He let go of my bike before I learned to ride and I had a bad accident. I was hurt pretty badly. I heard my dad ask my mother if I would still be able to have babies. I was confused. She told him to shut up and get the car.
Because of that accident, my dad wouldn’t let me get near a bicycle for years, even though my brother always had one. My two sisters never wanted one, which I always thought was weird and it didn’t help me when I pleaded for my own. Finally, my dad gave in on my thirteenth birthday.
We went to the local bicycle shop, which was also an auto-parts and lawn-mower shop. Everyone there knew my dad. I’d been there with him plenty of times and they all knew I’d been begging for a bicycle for a long time. I was often invited inside the owner’s house next door and his wife would give me milk and homemade cookies. I loved her cookies and she made them the day I got my new bicycle. It was a great day. My dad let me ride it home, which was less than half a mile away. You could throw a rock from there to our back door.
I loved that bicycle. I could ride it fifty miles without thinking a thing about it and I did, often. There’s a long story about what happened to that bike, but it is one sad story, so I won’t tell it here.
I grew up, had a son and bought us both bicycles when he was three years old.
His was a tricycle, but he begged me to take those two extra wheels off. “Your bike doesn’t have them Mommy,” he said.
We took the wheels off, but I had a person at each end and several in the middle to catch him if he fell. He did fall, but he didn’t have far to go and it was in the soft grass. He didn’t get hurt. He got up as fast as he could, before any of us could get to him and jumped back on the bicycle. It was very funny. I remember him looking back at us as he rushed to pick that little bicycle off the ground. He never used those extra wheels and we had years worth of fun riding together. We still enjoy riding together. I like that.
I can’t go cycling like I could before being struck with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or fibromyalgia.
However, I do have a fun bicycle. I call it my magic little bike. It brings out the best in me when I ride it. I absolutely love moving and feeling the wind on my face. That’s part of the magic. Being able to move without pain. (The trick to that is being on a flat road.)
My little bike also has pink and white streamers and an awesome bell!
Occasionally, I’ll still take my hands off the handle bars and hold them in the air. I like that too.
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