Trying to write about what happened after the stroke has been trying for me. Several of my regular readers have said that writing posts about this time in my life will be therapeutic. I have no doubt that they’re right. Still, saying and doing are two different things.
This is the first post in a series of three. I hope you enjoy these and learn some things from them.
That first summer after my stroke proved to be a hodgepodge of events. When I think back on it, I’m surprised at how full that summer had been. I’ve heard of and seen how desolate people with disability become right after the accident or whatever has caused the hellish condition they must live in for the rest of their lives. I expected the same to happen to me. Conversely, my life became complex.
My father could not accept the idea of me being so dependent on others for the rest of my life. At the time, I wanted to believe that it was because he loved me, but the true of the matter was that he didn’t want the burden he thought I may be. It really doesn’t matter what motivated him because the end result was I got a new car that he paid for, lock, stock and barrel. It was a snot-green Ford Maverick. Yes, that poor car’s color was nauseating to say the least. Actually, it was a year old but the only times it had been off the lot was when someone took it for a test drive. In my eyes, you can’t get much newer than that.
My father also paid for driving lessons by AAA. After all, if I had an accident, once again he’d have to take care of me, which was what he was trying to cast off.
Regardless of my father’s reasons, the lessons turned out to be invaluable. My stroke had effected the right side of my body so using the right foot on the accelerator and brake were not an option. I learned how to cross my “bad leg” under my “good leg” and use the good one for the pedals. When I had learned how to drive the first time (when I was fifteen), I was instructed to turn my head to look on both sides and behind the car. Because of the way I had to sit now, the instructor had to teach me how to make better use of the rear-view mirrors. I was learning how to be a truck driver with a car that had an automatic transmission. The lessons on the road were the same-o same-o as before. There was the parallel parking, getting on and off ramps leading to and from the highway, what to do when stopping on the side of a road or highway when needed without the ample space being there and, of course, the rules of the road.
Once the lessons were over with, I had to muster up the courage to go take the written and driving tests. Remember, this is in the 1970s, so having someone with a physically disable come into to apply for a driver’s license caused heads to turn and whispers to be heard. True, the soldiers were slowly coming back to the US from Vietnam but rights and dignity for vets with disability hadn’t come into play yet. Trying to find an instructor who was willing to take me out for my test spin proved to be a little challenging. Finally, the supervisor came up to bat for me. I did everything out on the streets exactly as they should be done, which made him admit, on the way back to the agency, that he had to re-evaluate what was going on in the office and get some retraining in gear for the instructor.
Later that day I took my car out for its first solo drive around the parts of the city I felt comfortable in. I felt, for the first time in over a year, like a “normal” person. I know, I’m supposed to feel “normal” anyway, and I’m sure someone is asking, “What is supposed to be normal?”. Right? I know that “normal” is a subjective and relative term but to not have someone notice your disability first is a super big deal. Believe me on this one. I didn’t go to the park where I used to hang out. (I’ll tell you why in my next post in this series.) I did, however, go to Washington Park where the birthday party for Cathy was held. I didn’t get out of the car. I was too enthralled with the ecstasy of feeling “normal”. Nevertheless, some of the hippies mulling around that day came up to my car and talked to me for a while. Yes, I did tell these few about my disability and they congratulated me on getting out and trying to get my life back together. Yes, a very uplifting and therapeutic experience.
Of course, this wasn’t the only thing that happened that summer. As I had stated at the beginning, this particular summer turned out to be a full one. The next post in this series will be about “the gang” at the park that year.