Its inevitable. If you have spent any time at all, permanently or not, in a wheelchair or on crutches or a walker, have pretty much any visible impairment and you know exactly who I'm talking about. You're going along pushing yourself down the aisle at the grocery store, or making your way up a ramp, or going through a door, you'll hear that phrase "Bless your heart!" chimed from behind you and suddenly feel that sudden jolt of momentum forward or the cart or basket whipped out of your hands or shoved out of the way so they can get a door open for you. Its the well-intentioned person that perceived a need and then decided to act with charitable kindness in behalf of a less-fortunate. In my experience this situation is compounded exponentially when you become a parent.
Its frustrating, really. I am probably one of the most independent people you'll meet. Probably to a fault. I've always tried to find ways to do it myself and when I added children to my life, the challenge of finding ways to manage them and my chair became paramount. And I figure for the most part I've done a pretty good job. Dealing with those stupid car carriers for infants is something I'm particularly proud of. I balance the carrier on my dominant leg while I hold the handle with one hand. I then use my other hand to propel one wheel forward. Then I quickly switch hands on the handle and push forward on my other wheel with my other hand. Once I gain a fair amount of momentum, its easy peasy lemon squeezy as my daughter says. It looks terribly awkward. Thus it become a magnet for the well-intentioned. The other day as I was heading into our local Wally-big-box store to get some things, I had almost made it across to the front doors when I heard the familiarly grating sound of "Bless your heart!". Promptly, my child in his carrier was taken from off my lap, carried into the store, and put in a cart all before I could say "Hey!" The woman beamed with pride as I and my other children caught up to her. I just didn't have the heart to scold her with so much well-intentioned-ness exuding from her. I just mumbled a thanks and took control of the cart. But I couldn't help but think that if something like that had happened to an able-bodied person, the woman could very well be leaving Wally-big-box in handcuffs for attempted child abduction. But how to explain that to a person without delving into a long, bitter-sounding diatribe that I would appreciate being asked first, like anyone else.
To be fair, a good number of people I've come across do ask first. Its probably one of the only reasons that when the well-intentioned do ask, I have a really hard time telling them "no". I, when I had only two children to deal with instead of three, had gone to a different Wall-big-box to get some much needed grocery shopping done. A full basket is usually not an issue when you've got a very well-trained three year old at your side and the nine-month-old sitting peacefully in his car carrier on top of the basket. But it had dumped quite a bit of snow the night before. Wally-big-box, in their infinitely cheap wisdom, decided it wasn't important to plow their parking lot. Its so huge and that would be expensive. And to add insult to injury, it had dumped quite a bit more snow, wet snow, while I was in the store. Wet snow + full grocery basket + wheelchair = big problem. I sat there staring at my van only 30 feet from me. It might as well have been across the Grand Canyon. I guess I looked pretty pathetic because I heard "Bless your heart!" chime from in front of me. It was an older couple who were heading in from the blizzard to the store. They asked me if I could use some help and what could I say? I knew I wasn't getting across the frozen slush pile by myself. In no time I found myself and my kids neatly packed up in my car with the groceries in the back. And before they left they said "God bless you, honey." And I immediately said back to them, "He already did."