The phone was ringing. Shortly after my wife answered it, not only did I know it was our son, but I knew why he was calling. After a couple minutes she shouted to me “Mark wants to talk to you.” As I turned on the speaker my son said “Happy Anniversary.” I couldn’t believe it! We’ve been married 52 years. As our conversation came to a close, I told Mark that we’re going out to dinner at an extremely nice restaurant not far from here. Always looking to make a joke I said who knows “maybe I’ll get lucky tonight.” There was no chance of me getting lucky in the way this quote is usually used. Abstinence, while a choice for some, was just another behavior forced on us by my quadriplegia.
Wedding Day 1965
It is not unusual when I take questions and answers from a group I’d just spoken to for someone to ask me what do I miss the most. I always answer intimacy. Not sexual intercourse, which it 74 would probably not be a major activity anyway, but rather the subtle displays of affection that take place during a normal day. The warmth and security of a hug, a touch as my wife passes by or most of all snuggling in bed. All of these little shows of affection are extremely difficult for someone who was paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. Once I’m placed in bed, I can only move my arms and my head. Being unable to roll on my side makes snuggling next to impossible. A hug with a person in a wheelchair is awkward at best. The physical presence of the chair combined with the fact that my wife has to bend way over makes contact difficult and as a result usually brief. At night or in the morning while I am still in bed, I will notice my wife walked by and touch my foot or leg. If I wasn’t looking I would never know that it had taken place.
In reality being a quadriplegic takes a lot of common everyday occurrences away from you. However, there are some things that you become more conscious of as a result of your disability. One of the first things that would be mentioned is the observation that the majority of people in our society are good, caring and loving individuals who want to do the right thing. Unfortunately, most programs on television or the Internet tend to focus on the small percentage of individuals who do not fall into this majority.
To get back to the original statement I made to my son little did I know that it was foreshadowing for the dinner ahead. Our waitress at the restaurant also works in my doctor’s office so she knew who we were. In the course of the dinner we mentioned to her that it was our 52nd wedding anniversary. When she bought our dessert there were a couple candles in it and we laughed as we blew them out. When it came time to pay she informed us that someone, who wished to remain anonymous, had already paid for our dinner. While the restaurant was pretty crowded we did not recognize anyone we knew. For some reason someone had reached out and touched us. People should know the strength and ability to persevere, we draw from such acts of kindness. The reaching out of people like this helps give us the strength we need to move through the struggles that we face in our daily lives. Thanks to all of you who reach out to all of us. Oh, and by the way I did get lucky that night.
Our family on our 50th anniversary
Posted in Attitude, Behavior, Community Inclusion, Determination, Disability, Education, Friends, Friendship, Humor, Love, Observation, Reality, Sensitivity, Stuggling
Tagged 50th wedding anniversary, life lesson, lifestyle, physically challenged, power wheelchair, quadriplegia, relationship, society
Thursday, April 9, 2015, Marge and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. Where has the time gone? We have aged, our children have grown and our lives have gone through major changes since that day in 1965. Recalling that day, I can still remember how nervous I was. Marriage had always been very important to me, and I had a tremendous desire to make my marriage work. Looking back, the last 50 years have been the best of my life. Marge and I have shared laughter and tears, good times and bad, joys and sorrows; but more than that, we have shared our dreams, our innermost thoughts, our strength and frailties, and we have shared our love. Marge has always been there when I have needed support. Things that happen to me when we are apart are not complete until I share them with her. Only with Marge can I truly be myself and completely relax.
Our marriage suffered a severe challenge in1999 when an accident in the US Virgin Islands left me a quadriplegic. While this accident happened to both of us it affected us and our relationship in extremely different ways. While I struggled to adjust to and overcome the paralysis which impacted 80% of my body Marge’s struggles were centered on keeping our family afloat and adjusting to becoming the alpha individual responsible for the family. The first 34 years had been relatively stable. Not that we didn’t have challenges and setbacks, but we always seemed to persevere through them. I use to tell my students, in my Preparation for Marriage class, successful marriages were the result of two, four letter words that both ended in “k”. After the snickering died down I told them the words were “work” and “talk” and I still believe that today. However, our relationship had been rocked to the core, especially after we returned home from the rehabilitation hospital and I began getting stronger. I wanted to reclaim what independence I could and that conflicted with Marge’s concerned about my safety. It took our dogs a couple weeks to realize what it took me years to understand and that was that Marge was now the alpha person in the relationship. I also had a terrible time reconciling my desire for independence with my almost total dependency on Marge and others. Depression became an issue. Some of these issues have been dealt with, others we still struggle with.
As the result of work and talk our marriage has become strong and stable again. Gone is most of the spontaneity, most everything we do requires planning and forethought. Gone too is the physical intimacy we enjoyed, that’s been the toughest of all the changes, but we have and continue to adjust and our love blossoms again.
Our day was made much more special being able to celebrate it with so many of our friends.
Posted in Attitude, Behavior, Community Inclusion, Determination, Disability, Friends, Love, Reality
Tagged 50th wedding anniversary, adapting, control, life lesson, physically challenged, quadriplegia, relationship, using your mind