I slowly pushed my walker down the sidewalk, each step a careful consideration. My walker was helpful in more ways than I know how to describe. My hips were still incredibly weak and bumped against the sides of the walker with each step; something that had initially irritated me, but I had come to appreciate. Bumping the sides of the walker helped me know where my legs were in space, and where I was likely to place them with each step.
I continued down the sidewalk, the short walk to the mailbox taking at least 15 minutes of bumping against the sides of the walker, noisily jolting it with the tremors in my shoulder and my iron grip shaking the walker up and down on the concrete. I likely would have been sheepish about the noise and fuss the walker made had I been more aware, but not much time had passed since I’d been released from hospital. My foremost care was staying alive.
The gate to the mailboxes loomed ahead of me and music blared from the courtyard of the apartment complex, which surrounded the pool. A pool party was in full swing and I’d have to make my way through the energetic crowd in order to reach the mailboxes. I glanced at the gate warily. I hadn’t expected obstacles on my way to check the mail. I had yet to stand on my own without wobbling. I could stand for an hour at a time, but it was wobbly. The slightest bump could tumble me.
The gate loomed ahead of me and I pushed toward it with determination. Eyes fell on me once I wrestled my way through the gate, and I avoided them studiously. Bare legs and flip flop clad feet danced across the left side of my vision, the right side cloudy and unseeing as usual. I didn’t want to look people in the face. Risking eye contact – forcing myself to be aware of people noticing me – I couldn’t do it. I didn’t even want to imagine it. It made me want to panic.
I eventually pushed through the mass of fit, healthy bodies and found myself in front of the gate to the mailboxes. I struggled with it for several minutes, eventually wrestling my body and the walker through the gate before it swung shut on my heels. Getting faster. Good. Shuffling down the row to my mailbox, I breathed a sigh of relief. The noise had lessened some and I could breathe more easily.
A few more minutes and I finally had the mailbox key in the lock and turned it, swinging the small door open to reveal a stack of letters and ads well beyond my carrying ability.
Good thing about this basket, I thought to myself and silently thanked Amazon for delivering it so quickly. I would need to fill my walker’s basket.
My body ached. I shut the email box door and turned to lean against the wall, breathless and exhausted. I shut my eyes and prepared myself to push through the crowd again. I moved back the way I had come, realizing too late that the weight of the letters and ads were a bit heavy for the front of my walker l. My walker began to tip forward as I pushed it. Great. Another thing to worry about.
I made it through the pool area without incident. People stepped out of my way, some of them casting a cursory glance at me or staring openly. It was right before I reached the sidewalk gate that I heard a small voice.
“What’s wrong with her?”
“She’s retarded or something. Come on, don’t get too close. She might be sick.”
The words struck me in the chest and my breath caught in my throat as I turned to look at who had spoken. A woman holding a small boy’s hand was walking away from me by the time I had turned. I knew that I moved very oddly and clearly had something amiss, but…
Tears stung my eyes and I push through the gate and rushed away from the pool area as quickly as I could, hoping that nobody woyld notice the moisture rolling down my cheeks. Well, it would be if I didn’t freaking get out of the area quickly enough.
I didn’t know what I wished for. I just knew that it wasn’t this.
I finally burst through the apartment door. Finally.