It is what it is. Grace is in a wheelchair, due to cerebral palsy. However, she is quickly approaching 14, and full of surprises. Yesterday, we had a full day to ourselves. The boys were out fishing, Halle was at her boyfriends graduation party, so Grace and I planned an entire day together, just doing whatever sounded good. The wedding is in just a little over two weeks, and she is my bridesmaid. Halle is my maid of honor. Grace had picked a very pretty yellow dress, and we needed shoes. Normally, she wears DAFOS, which are stiff, plastic braces to keep her ankles at a precise 90 degree angle. There are very few shoes other than sneakers that are small enough (she only wears a size 13) that come wide enough to fit over the braces. For the wedding, she wanted to wear pretty shoes without the braces. I’m okay with that.
Off to the mall we go. After 20 minutes looking for a handicap spot to accommodate the wheelchair lift in the van, we finally found one. I could launch into a long diatribe about the insanity of handicap spaces being used by people who don’t want to walk far in the rain, who don’t want to carry their merchandise too far from the store, or just don’t care. But, if you know me, you’ve heard it. If you don’t know me, I’d rather you continue to think of me as a kind, genteel Southern gal. At least for now. 😉
Long story short, Grace and I had a fabulous day eating food that was really bad for us, watching her race the security guard on his Segway, (his mama raised him right…what a great kid!) and finding the perfect sparkly princess shoes for her. Traffic at Montgomery Mall has some terrific deals on very cute shoes. And, their sales staff is amazing. Grace found a pair of silver, blingy sandals, and she tried them on. Her wheelchair combined with her physical issues, make it difficult for her to see the shoes she tries on. Up until just a year or so ago, she was perfectly fine letting me pick her shoes. Not now. She’s almost 14. So, the sparkly shoes looked great on her feet, she just had no idea how they looked. Leah, the young girl helping us suggested I try on the same pair, since they sell quite a few styles in mother/daughter sizes. Problem solved. I tried them on, Grace squealed in delight, and the day was a huge success. Mother/Daughter manicures followed, and off we went after a very successful day.
It seems that whenever we go out in public, children are fascinated by Grace and her tricked out candy-apple-red power chair. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a child say “Mom, why does she have that chair? What’s wrong with her?” And as many times as I’ve heard that, I’ve heard moms reply, “Don’t stare, it’s not polite.” While I LOVE that moms are sensitive to what might be an uncomfortable moment, what I’d like to tell you is this: It’s okay. Grace and I both know she’s in a wheelchair. And your child is staring at that chair because, well, it’s a freakin’ awesome chair! She drives with head controls, and to a child it’s a pretty darn cool thing to be able to do. If your child has questions, it’s okay. We’re used to it, and Grace will pretty much answer anything a kid asks her. I for one would much rather your child come up and ask Grace why she can’t walk, than for a child to think it’s wrong to wonder. Your kids are Grace’s life long peers, and I guarantee you they could learn from each other. So if you see us out and about, and your little one has a question, have them introduce themselves. You’d be amazed at the conversations that might follow.
Karen Cluxton lives in Hatfield, PA, and has three teenagers – Halle 16, Owen 14, and Grace 13. Between shuttling kids to soccer, baseball and physical therapy, she trains in Mixed Martial Arts.