Saturday, March 9, 2013

Wheel Chair

With her calloused hands, she squeezed the aluminum ring and pushed it downward. The wheeled device gains speed. Kinetic may be its reason for moving, but to cover some distance, the contraption must be bumped from behind. 

It doesn't matter.

The one supposed to push the wheelchair is just steps away, watching. For now, she has the catwalk to herself.

The sheer joy of walking was taken away from her at an early age. Struck by an illness that has no cure, her legs shrunk and her muscles withered. She stayed in a hospital to rehabilitate her legs. The atrophy ceased, but Polio had changed her outlook on things. She would walk with two wooden stilts for the rest of her life.

A decade ago, she would receive her first wheelchair. It was a Christmas present from my first real paycheck. She would go on, doing lectures and be seen in places with a set of wheels. And as time takes away her strength, the more she depended on the hand powered transport to move around.

She would get two more wheelchairs in the course of time. The latest was a gift from the Favorite Aunt, after she asked if my aunt knows someone who sells it second hand. While I found its sturdy aluminum frame and thick seat pan strong enough to accommodate an extra, overweight toddler, the matriarch would sometimes complain that the wheelchair was too big. We didn't notice it at first, until she paid a visit at Tahanang Walang Hagdanan and tried - for the first time - to push her way around in a custom-built wheeled device.

Tahanang Walang Hagdanan is a haven for the disabled. It sits on a sprawling property at the heart of Cainta. Founded by nuns, the place is run by people, whose legs and arms no longer attach itself to the body. It is a center for empowerment and support, where one is measured not by the completeness of his body parts, but by his life accomplishments.

The matriarch felt at home.

"Kaya pala sumasakit ang balikat ko." She said after checking out the place. Folks there had told her that her wheelchair's arm rests are too high. "Pag-ipunan natin yung wheelchair na sinubukan ko ha?"

Raising funds took three months instead of a couple of weeks. Unseen events left us cash-strapped. Even the matriarch at first had second thoughts. The new set of wheels is beyond our means. And the only way she could procure it is to use my Mastercard.

Even that was uncertain too. We have not asked if TWH accepts credit cards.

Nevertheless, we drove all the way to Cainta, hoping to switch the matriarch's old contraption for a custom-built one. Nothing is achieved if we keep postponing our visit, when one has made it a priority.

We headed straight to the assembly plant after we had arrived. It was a two-story structure with steel ramps that lead to the upper floor. People at work sat on chairs fastened with wheels. Introductions were made and soon, the matriarch was transferring chairs. She spun its wheels and moved around the workshop. It didn't take long to make up her mind.

She will get a new wheel chair.

However, our hopes were put out after the attendant - an amputee who walks around with crutches revealed that they don't accept credit cards. They have no port to swipe it, which the matriarch didn't understand at first. I had to explain that Tahanang Walang Hagdanan is a non-profit group, whose small-time enterprise could not afford such convenience.

I saw her face sink.

Foreseeing such event, new decisions had to be made. We agreed to pay in cash instead. After all, 8 thousand pesos is a bargain. Should we walk away from the offer, we might not get the same privilege again.

To return home with a new set of wheels didn't really go well for me too. I have no faith in the craftsmanship, and to pay it in cash - just when I spent a fortune elsewhere will further dry up my savings.

It was difficult to impart my money.

But to see the matriarch - my mother - getting cozy with her new wheelchair didn't leave my thoughts. How can I spoil her mood, when the device is all she aspired since New Year? Besides, I wouldn't pay it on credit. It means that even when I lose money, I don't have obligations with the bank.

It doesn't hurt that much when you look at it on the bright side.

And so we bought the wheelchair and paid it in full. It would take some time for us to return, so we took a stroll and explored the place before leaving. 

"Ang tahimik pala dito," my mom said as we glide across empty corridors and barely-furnished dormitories. 

"Okay lang, I love this place." I was looking at the trees.

She then told me about her stay at the Orthopedic Hospital as a kid, and how she felt being left out after being bullied by other patients. Meanwhile, we reached the outskirts, and the children's chatter now fills the air. The school next to the estate had just dismissed its classes. Turning around to return to the parking lot, air raid sirens blare from the nearby town hall.

Work is over for most of the townspeople. It's time for us to go home.


Tim Smithson said...

that must be a tough challenge for her. I salute and I adore her patience.

kudos to your great mom!

Zion said...

you're a great son, I'm sure your mother is proud of you! para saan lang naman yung pera kung di masaya yung mga taong mahal mo diba?

Pepe said...

Beautiful story. It speaks so much about you.

Zion said...

Pasensya po. Di ko na isusubmit yung link mo sa site. I have no bad intentions. :(

tipzstamatic said...

:-) happy mother's day (UK)!

JM said...

you're a good human being joms. :)