Rainbows from the beveled glass windows floated above the glistening, distressed oak floor. A huge color RCA television in a wooden cabinet dominated the room. Karen arranged the beige and powder blue pillows on the sectional so she could sit near her friend.
She pointed at her friend’s forehead and tried to be tactful. “About that goose egg? Maybe someone hit you in the head?”
Tammy laughed and rolled her eyes. “Using a power wheelchair is a skill, and I need time to master it. I keep running into walls, but at least I’m the one doing the running into. I’m not an inert cargo someone else has to wheel about.”
“How’s your mom with that?”
“Mommy is terrified I’ll kill myself, but this is the first time in my life I’ve been able to move around on my own, and I will not give up my new freedom, just because I may have to endure a few minuscule bumps and scrapes. I need this motorized chair for my future independence.”
“You mean for when you grow up?”
“It’s more complicated than that. And you have the same issue. Barring disaster, we will outlive our mothers. And who’s going to take care of us then? At least you can walk. I can’t even feed myself. Anything I can do to become more independent is a victory.”
“I agree. Mama is always telling me I have to become independent, but I thought Dr. L wanted you to move into Sonoma so you’ll have care for life.”
“No way. Mommy read they torture people there. She’s set up a fund to pay my expenses after she’s gone, but I don’t want to be any more helpless than I have to be. Besides, my mother is exhausted right now. With the power chair, at least she won’t have to push me everywhere. She already has too much to deal with. There’s me, and then there’s my sister, who is totally out of control, and then there’s my father, who isn’t around, but she still has to deal with him and his attorneys. If it weren’t for me, Sandra would be a well-adjusted teen with a bright future. Dad would be by Mommy’s side. They would all be happy and normal. But I’m here, so Sandra is counting the days until she leaves for college, and then all of my care will fall on Mommy. Daddy left ages ago because he didn’t want to be burdened with me and my disabilities.”
The room fell silent as Karen searched her heart for how to respond. “Tammy, you’re my friend. And your mommy loves you. She’s glad to take care of you, just like mine is with me. We have disabilities, but we’re human beings who deserve to be taken care of.”
Tammy nodded. “You’re right. Self-loathing doesn’t help anyone. Did I tell you I have a clinic appointment this coming Thursday?”
“No! No, you didn’t. What time is it for?”
“It’s for ten-thirty.” Her arms thrashed with nervousness.
“I had mine in January. Why are they re-evaluating you in March?”
“I don’t know. It must have something to do with the power wheelchair. I just hope they won’t take it away from me. I hate clinic. I can’t stand the feelings I get when I roll through the doors, and they all gawk at me and want to run my life.”
“Stay strong, Tammy. You can handle it.”
“Thanks, Kitten. You’re my lighthouse of hope and my rainbow at the end of the storm.”
Original text ©2022 by Karen Lynn-Chlup. All rights reserved.