Becoming Visible. Telling Family.

So. In addition to running around town like a madwoman, frantically preparing to move back to Russia after a short hiatus, I also booked a weekend trip (perhaps stupidly given the current to-do list) to see my family in One Small East Coast City.  To see my sister to be more specific.

It is fair to say that we are close.  We talk frequently over the phone or Skype depending upon my location.  But. We see each other very rarely.  There is quite a bit of an age gap. (She is older.)  And we are both busy with work and travel.  Plus, she has kids.  This means that we do not see each other in real time and (without the mediator of a computer screen) all that often.  She hasn’t had the opportunity to observe first hand the physical changes I’ve experienced over the last six years.  And for my part, I’ve told her very little.  Because you know, I was sure I could just tough it out.  I was sure my mobility problems would disappear if I just ignored them (despite what medical personal said–I confess; I sometimes have difficulty with medical Authority, but that is a topic for another post…)  I was sure I could just get used to the pain.  After all, it wasn’t interfering with my function. I mean, sure I had some seriously embarrassing (and at times damaging) falls (The one on the Champs-Élysées at an hour of peak foot traffic was particularly special.)  Sure I had to stop to rest.  Sure I had SOME trouble keeping up.  Sure I teetered precariously on uneven or moving surfaces. (Once in one of those infamous terminal to terminal transfer boxes at Dulles airport an immaculately dressed, middle aged woman with a diplomatic passport, asked, after observing me sway and nearly collapse in a heap onto my own luggage, “Are you OKAY?” As in, “Are you drunk???”)  Sure I was tired. Really tired.  A lot.  Sure I was cranky.  But I was functioning JUST FINE THANKS!

But I wasn’t.  So I finally heeded the Authoritative advice, got some physio, and a mobility aid, and a rehab consult.  And. Things improved. A Lot. And that was fine.  And then my sister started making noise about wanting to see me in person, while I was in the United States. Because “You’re never here for very long…And we never see you. And the kids are growing up. And you’re missing it.” It was a good argument.  So we set the dates. And I booked the flights.  And then I told her.  How things had been going.  How things had changed.  How I now move about with a mobility aid.  And there was a long pause on the other end of the phone.  The kind where you think if you listen just a little harder you might really be able to hear fresh paint drying in the background.  And then she said, “Oh well, but when you are here, I’m sure you won’t need it.”  I tried explaining about uneven surfaces and distances and standing intolerance.  I tried explaining about malls and airports.  (FYI: Many people who do not normally need mobility aids for day to day living need them in malls and airports.)  And then she said, “Oh well but the airport in One Small East Coast City is so tiny.  There is hardly anywhere to walk at all.  I’m sure that when we pick you up, you won’t need it.”  And then, a question: “Surely, you won’t need it around the house, will you?” No, probably not, but…  “Okay. You know. You might not need it here.  Maybe we can go to the running store, and get you some special shoe inserts.  They did them for us; M. and I love them; they are really great.  About $40, but worth it. You know, if you have those running inserts, you really might not need a crutch.  They really might solve your problems.  Do you want me to tell anyone? Maybe we shouldn’t just yet. Because if we tell them, and then you don’t need it…You might not need it here…”

I was too disappointed. And too tired. To bother re-explaining about malls and airports and uneven surfaces and standing intolerance. Or about custom made AFOS and inserts.  I gave up. And we said goodbye. But I’m still going. And I’m taking my crutch. Because you know what? I do need it. That is the way it is. And that is fine. In fact, it’s more than fine.  It is an improvement on a previously (seriously) unpleasant situation.  And as for my sister’s discomfort, concern, and dare I say possible embarrassment about being seen with a PWD, well, she’ll just have to cope.  At the airport, and at the mall, and over uneven surfaces, and so on…

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