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  • Thomas Ward

My Wife is in a Wheelchair

I was on my way home from somewhere yesterday and Sherry called to ask if I could stop and get maxi-pads and tampons. I said yes and she apologized. I don’t think I’ve given her a need to apologize, or I hope I haven’t. I don’t find it embarrassing or emasculating to buy tampons and maxi-pads. But I’m always aware of it when I go to checkout. I have a fantasy where someone makes a joke. Like two people running the counter at Walgreens. They see me with my box of feminine products and one of them mumbles something as I’m almost out of the store. Something like, “Guess she’s got him trained.” Then I would turn around all tough-guy style and say, “Excuse me? What did you say?” And because of my size and demeanor they would clam up a bit, but still thinking this is so hilarious. “I’m sorry, what did you say? No. You said something. I heard it. I can hear. Wipe the smirk off your face and tell me what you said. I’m dying to know.” Then one of them would say, “Look, man, sorry, we didn’t…” Lying little prick. But now I get to drop the bomb. I get to say it:


“I’m buying this for my wife. (slight beat) Who happens to be in a WHEELCHAIR.”


Then I get to walk out slowly as they wallow like sad pigs in their shame.


I have a complicated relationship with the wheelchair. On one hand, it makes it possible for her to have a lot of independence and is the only way that she can be comfortable or mobile. On the other hand, she has to be in a wheelchair. And that sucks. The wheelchair makes a clicking sound every time it moves or stops. I don’t know what part of the mechanism makes the sound but it’s just a loud distinct click that doesn’t sound like any other click I’ve heard in my life. She will never be able to sneak up on me again. So if she decides to kill me she’ll have to think of something else.


I’ve gotten more comfortable saying “my wife is in a wheelchair.” I sometimes worry I say it too much as a sub-conscious grab for pity. I do feel the need to say it if I’m picking anyone up or giving them a ride because the van with the ramp is our only vehicle. People have been asking what brought us to Georgia and I’ve been explaining her condition as the reason. I realize I don’t have to but it’s the truth. It does change a conversation pretty quickly. Either lots of follow up, or inane scrambles to change the subject. I’m realizing that our last few moves haven’t been for good reasons. They’ve been because of jobs ending badly or muscles eroding quickly. We had a reading of a play I’ve written as our kind of goodbye to Fort Worth and Dallas, to the theatre community, a community that has given us more than we can ever pay back. After the reading a friend hugged me, both of us tearing up, and she said that she felt like I was moving toward something and not away from it. That’s what we all want to feel, right? A pull. Not a retreat. And I’m constantly amazed how much of it is in our control through our outlook or point of view. Right now, this morning, sitting outside on my patio after seeing my kid make it onto the school bus, my dog chasing bugs, the sun coming up through our new tree-filled backyard, waiting to leave for Montgomery where Sherry will perform her show, sitting here with a 70s slow jam playlist as I type… yeah man. I’m good. I’m moving toward something. I just wish this feeling wasn’t quite so elusive. And I wish it didn’t take so much work to oftentimes find it. But there I go again. Back to the dark side.