Strange how I fight my way through post-trip, jet lag reality. I don’t seem able to return from such an experience the way I used to. Writing this, while pushing 70 years of age, my complaint seems a bit silly. But that’s me. Do not go gently. Do not go at all, if possible.
And that’s the thing. It isn’t possible. But ever since my injury, I have reacted to every diminution of function in approximately the same way. Desperation. Denial. Anger. Depression.
It’s Sunday. Jane leaves to preach. I roll into our San Francisco garage…into which my van and its side ramp fit as snugly as an egg in a carton…and pause. That’s the thing about life as a hyper conscious introvert — there are lots of pauses. This particular one is filled with dread. Unfortunately, the general antidote to dread is action. Which takes the form of clicking my car key and making the side door open, the ramp descend…followed by my own ramping up and into the driving space. No, I don’t mean the Driving Space in the California sense of the word. I mean the open seatless area behind the steering wheel. Do I dare to lock my wheelchair into its safety clamp? What if the battery suddenly goes dead and I am trapped here? At least until Jane comes home from work…or, perhaps, forever?
I press the button above me that opens the garage door. Strangely, this works. I start the engine and retract the ramp…also lowering the windows. Why the windows? Well, I tell myself, this will help me hear the sound of the garage door going back down…or not going down. I try not to think of the possibility that I will press the accelerator so hard that my van slams into the parked car across the street. It is grey, this car. It is fairly old, so the replacement cost will be fairly low, if I demolish it. I start the engine, pull forward into the street and put my van in park. This is a city street. I am blocking two lanes of traffic on a city street. It is Sunday morning, and no one cares except me. This maneuver is designed to allow me to reach up and press the garage door control. I can’t hear the door dissenting, but I do catch a glimpse in my rear view mirror.
What follows is fairly standard. I drive into Noe Valley, the next neighborhood to the north and park on 24th Street, the main drag. I try not to think about that stage in my life that I called graduate school, but there is no avoiding it. I used to limp down the hill from my apartment, hang a right at 24th St., and continue limping. one block. two blocks. All the way to the Meat Market coffeeshop on a typical Saturday. Another neuromuscular era. More than 40 years ago.
This era is spent worrying about the future, it seems. Or was that true also in graduate school? Maybe so. Maybe it’s been one era of worry after the next. On this particular Sunday morning, my double macchiato and bran muffin offer little solace. Fact is, I have to drive home. Also park at home. None of the spaces I was hoping for are available. So I go around the block, come back uphill past my house…and slip backwards into a space. It’s been a white-knuckle adventure, this drive into the adjacent neighborhood. But I’m back now. My van drifts backwards out of control…a terrifying second when I take my foot off the brake. The automatic transmission has settled into park. I lower the ramp and try to do the same myself.