The advantage of research, planning and making arrangements for a vacation is the excitement of going helps me overcome my fears of getting there. In my article, Giving Thanks to a U.S. History Teacher, I mentioned my fear of flying with Mark, who is totally reliant on a wheelchair since our car accident in 1991. Besides worrying about what would happen to the wheelchair during the flight, I couldn’t imagine how Mark, with limited control of his stiff, long legs could fit in an airplane seat with minimal leg room.
We have a customized van with a ramp which enables Mark to stay in his wheelchair. This saves me from transferring him into a passenger seat, then disassembling leg rests, seat cushion and back before being able to collapse the wheelchair for the ride. We’ve done this routine many times and it becomes physically draining. Mark is a tall man (6’2” to be exact) and getting his legs into a vehicle is always a struggle. With our customized van he stays in his wheelchair and I secure it to the floor of the van. Traveling without our van is difficult, but when you fly somewhere and have to rent a van—you do it anyway for the sake of the trip.
Mark’s daily care requires special equipment for the bed, shower and commode. The tools we use daily physically make it possible for me to take care of Mark. Traveling is always a challenge, but it increases when you require gear that doesn’t fit in the luggage.
I have been asked if it ever crossed my mind to leave Mark home with extended family and just take the kids on vacation. The truth is I never did consider leaving Mark behind. Even if he wasn’t willing to go, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable leaving him with someone else. Mark loves outings and especially when it’s with family. He’s always game to try anything and has total trust we will take care of his needs wherever we are. We’ve taken him boating, rafting, on a tram ride, canoe, bus, carriage ride and on a train. None of it was easy and sometimes the ride was too rough for his body, but he always wanted to go. When strangers are lifting him out of his chair into an airplane seat or boat, he remarkably shows no sign of panic. He has good reason to fear because he doesn’t have any control of where he lands, but Mark stays focused on where he’s going instead of how he’s getting there and puts trust in whoever is helping him. No anxiety, he only expresses appreciation in all the efforts made in his behalf. This makes taking him everywhere a rewarding experience.
Luckily, we have family and friends who willingly help us do activities which would be impossible to do without their assistance. These are people who want our lives to be enjoyable by sharing experiences most people take for granted. When we were in Philadelphia, Mark and I planned on staying back while the rest of the family took a carriage ride. My brother, Steve, wouldn’t stand for that. He insisted we lift Mark into the carriage and all take the ride together. I was more worried than Mark, but I followed his lead and stayed focused on the event which helped me overcome my fear.
By focusing on where I wanted to go and not on what I feared, we have made many happy memories.