For months now we’ve been thinking of a great unknown for Tess:  kindergarten. Next year at this time, she’ll finish preschool, board a bus of some kind, and join her brother at Falmouth Elementary. Will she be in a chair or will she walk aboard that bus?
Well, yesterday her physical therapist told me that we need to start thinking about a chair for her. Yes, T is close to walking, and yes, she could do it at any time, and yes, we all are pretty sure she’ll be on her feet eventually. But in case she isn’t, we must provide the school with a chair/stroller option. Because they certainly won’t carry her.
Thing is, her current stroller is almost too small for her. We have an umbrella stroller, but it’s only good up to 50 pounds. And besides, her feet are already dragging on the ground with that one. At any time she could plant a foot as we’re speeding along and thus tip the whole stroller forward. Pretty unsafe situation.
It is hard to think about how agonizingly close she is to walking, and how close she has been for the past few months. I can’t count how many times I’ve cheerily told relatives, “Any day now!” Her legs have the strength to hold her up, and she’s nailed the mechanics of it, the one-foot-in-front-of-the-other part. She just won’t do it, though.
And so the stroller. It will have big steel loops welded to its frame, so it can be tethered down safely in the handicapped area of whatever vehicle ferries her to and from school every day. Ideally it’ll be cushioned around her head area, but not with foam, because she’s so bitey. I’d love to say it’ll be lightweight, but I have no such illusions; at this age and weight even the simplest strollers are backbreakers when you try to lift them into your car. The one she has at school, for example, a brand misleadingly called Pixi, is evidently entirely constructed of ununoctium, the element with the highest atomic mass. Curious, I tried to move it the other day and pulled about seven muscles. What the hell kind of pixi(e) weighs so much?
This past weekend I saw dozens of old friends, some of whom I haven’t seen in ten or twenty years. Most of them knew me in high school, well before I met my wife, before I ever dreamed I’d know things such as what happens when a 4-year-old drinks a bit of the hand cleanser Purell (turns out it’s the equivalent of rum, the poison control center tells me–Tess’ll be a bit drunk for a while, but will otherwise be fine.) One by one, these people pulled me aside and told me that they often read this blog and they’re pulling for Tess. Many sighed and said they wished they could do something for us. What they didn’t realize was that it’s heartening just to hear that from them. It means something to know how many old friends are with us. When we rejoiced and danced around our kitchen–upon recently hearing that Tess took two independent steps at school–all of those people rejoiced with us. It meant a lot when they all told us that.
The best news of all from Tess’s PT is that we shouldn’t order our girl a power chair. If Tess were never going to walk, we’d pick a power chair now, to get her used to it, since it’d be her only means of transportation for the rest of her life. But Tess will most likely be on her feet, the PT said. It’s the closest thing to a prediction I’ve ever heard from this particular PT. The stroller will be temporary, just to get Tess around the school, until she’s walking on her own. And I guess on that day, when Tess is eventually walking around the school, we’ll need to tell them to watch out for her. You know, to keep an eye on the Purell.
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