A few weeks ago, on the way home from my sister’s day program, we stopped by the nature trail to try out the new transport chair. My sister, Michelle, has Down Syndrome and Alzheimer’s Disease, and she’s become more and more unsteady on her feet, so we’ve started using a transport chair for walks more extended than those we take around the house.
I’ve walked this trail before and thought Michelle would enjoy it. It’s more of a blacktop path, wide and smooth, easy for pushing the chair. The woods on either side change over time as spring fills in the trees and ground cover until it becomes dense with foliage and colorful wildflowers by the time summer rolls around. Then, the trees are painted with fall colors for too short a time until branches are bare and tree trunks are visible again.
It is always quiet and peaceful there, which I crave these days.
Learning to slow down
The grade is mostly flat, but I have to push harder to meet a slight rise in the path in a few places. It forces me to slow down, and that’s a good thing. I’m a checklist kind of gal, so getting through a daily to-do list is my modus operandi. At least it was before retiring into a full-time family caregiver reality.
Now, I’m trying to ditch the checklist mentality, and being outdoors is helping. At the nature trail, the greatest challenge is getting my phone out quick enough to take pictures of the constant distraction of birds, bugs, and flowers. It was easy before I started pushing a transport chair, but things are different now.
I must remember this new lifestyle isn’t a project. It is my life. The only step I need to be concerned with is the next one in front of me. So, it forces me to concentrate, at least a little, or jam my toe on one of the wheels. Ouch! Do that once or twice, and you’ll remember to slow down, too.
The danger of distraction
Now, about taking pictures. At one point on our walk, I saw a Blue Jay land in a tall Maple tree, and in typical Blue Jay boldness, it didn’t seem bothered by us. So, I thought, why not attempt a photo?
I stopped and grabbed the phone out of my pocket, turned away from the chair, clicked the camera app on the home screen, and was just about to take a picture. But I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye. It was the transport chair pivoting away from the path. Before I could react, the front two wheels had already gone down the six-inch beveled drop-off.
Michelle was about to go head over wheels into standing water left over from the previous night’s thunderstorm.
I quickly pulled back the teetering chair and engaged the brake I had forgotten to set when we stopped. Whew! Unfortunately, I allowed myself to get distracted by a BIRD and put my sister in danger. That freaked me out. But thank the Lord, we avoided disaster.
With a harried breath, I turned to see if the Blue Jay was still there awaiting his close-up. Of course not! He must have watched the whole thing before flying away with a smile on his beak. I am sure it was hilarious to watch, and so I all could do was laugh too. It would have to be a photo for another day. I only wish my sister could have appreciated the humor of the situation. She was not amused.
Giving yourself space to change old habits
Nobody’s perfect. To be fair, it was only the second time using the transport chair. But, at the risk of giving away my age, I must tell you that I haven’t pushed a stroller in decades and never a transport chair, so this was all new.
But we survived to try again and, I’m happy to say, we have several times now, without incident.
As a caregiver, I’m responsible for keeping another person safe, which involves so many things like meds, safe movement, and meals. So, I’m learning that it’s appropriate to ditch the checklist, slow down and pay attention. (Click here to read more about my family caregiver life here.)
The good news is that this caregiving life still has some excitement left in it, and it just might be the kind that makes you laugh, too.
Is slowing down a struggle for you, too? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
Posting in the Five Minute Friday & Inspire Me Monday linkups.
I’m so glad you found a transport chair and can enjoy the outdoors together. Aww the old brake! I’m sure you will remember it now! Have you thought about attaching your phone to something that hangs around your neck? That way you can easily capture pictures of animals versus digging in your pocket? It’s something to consider. Thanks for sharing your pictures, the trail looks lovely. ~Lisa, FMF #7
It is a beautiful space tucked in the middle of our city. And, no, I haven’t forgotten the brake since (Ha-ha!). I leave my phone in my pocket now, but I may bring a camera, as soon as I can find it.
Wow, what a close call! Your story is a great reminder to be very careful when others are depending on us. Your story is also a good reminder for someone like me, who depends on others for help in some areas, to be patient and forgiving when mistakes are made.
God bless you.
Thanks, Rishie. The event was a very effective reminder, indeed, for this caregiver. I’m glad it also helped you as a care recipient.
You might want to buy Michelle some snorkeling gear. 🤿. And some floaties for the transport chair. Lol 😆
That sure is something to consider, but I don’t think I’ll be leaving her near the side of the path anytime soon. Once what quite enough (laughing with you).
I love how you wrote about living your lifestyle, and that it is not a project. What a great shift in perspective. Thank you.
Thanks, Michele. It’s definitely a perspective shift that took longer than expected. I retired nine months ago and I’ve just recently starting to ask myself, “Is this task necessary or can it wait?” Asking the question forces me to evaluate what I’m doing and why. It helps me slow down and realize there’s no deadline on laundry, dishes, or dusting.
So glad all worked out ok…and that you can find the humor along with the lesson (life lesson and practical reminder to use the brake!) 🙂 Your sister is blessed to have you!
Oh! I haven’t forgotten the brake since. Caregiving tends to be heavy so humor is a must-have, even when it feels hard to find. Thanks for commenting.
Oh! I haven’t forgotten the brake since. Caregiving can be heavy sometimes, so humor is a must-have to lighten some situations.
So good reading how you are learning to slow down in these moments of caring for Michelle.. such a good reminder for me too! Not getting distracted with other things when I have those loved ones right before me.
Time passes so quickly. So, slowing down is a good thing. We need to savor those moments for later, even much later.
Suzette, this is such a beautiful post with a brilliant reminder. I think it is so wonderful that you are in the position to be your sister’s caretaker. I have always relied on my sense of humor in dealing with stressful moments in life so I appreciate that while the incident here frightened the heck out of you, your sense of humor made it easier to cope with. It is amazing how one random mishap can quickly change your perspective! A few months ago, my husband passed out from knee pain but he hit his head so hard when he fell that he was non-responsive when I got to him which ended in a 911 call and an ambulance trip to the ER. Thankfully, he was totally fine, but for a few minutes I thought I was a widow and that few minutes dramatically changed my perspective on so many things! But in the immediate aftermath, once I knew he was okay, my sense of humor took over and helped me deal with the 10 days of PTSD that I suffered from. That was a very long 10 days, by the way, where I would not let him out of the same room as me! You are beautiful soul and it is so great that you are sharing your experiences with others. Keep shining bright!
Shelbee on the Edge
Shelbee, thanks for leaving such a nice comment. You’re so right. My mind went directly to the worst possible outcome. Like someone would come and remove her from our home because I was obviously not fit to yada-yada-yada…until, I realized what happened and how funny I must have looked grabbing for the chair. I get it! I’m glad that your husband was okay and his ordeal ended with you finding humor in the situation, too. Thank goodness!