This week the state of Nebraska issued me a handicapped parking permit. I feel slightly guilty about receiving it since I do not always have trouble walking, but my husband and mother continuously remind me that when I do have trouble, I REALLY have trouble. After overcoming my guilt (yes, I work fast) I became excited at the prospect of using my new parking priveleges.
The first place I tried to use handicapped parking was the zoo. I had to conserve my energy for school that evening so I planned to park close and ride around the zoo on the tram. The zoo parking lot was not very full when we arrived, but would you believe that every handicapped stall was occupied? Bummer.
My second and third tries were thwarted by my own guilty conscience. After all, it seems silly to take up a perfectly good handicapped space when I can park in a regular spot only two or three spaces away.
After the disappointment of going a whole week without using my handicapped permit I eagerly awaited the Friday night high school football game where my older two girls would be cheering. I knew a lot of people would be there and that the closest parking spot would be an impossible three blocks away from the field.
As I pulled up to the school, however, my handicapped parking bubble burst like a wad of overworked gum. Our school has been renovated over the summer, including the parking lots, and apparently they have yet to redesignate handicapped parking spaces. The girls were already practicing outside the school gym and I just had to have pictures of them cheering, so I reluctantly parked three blocks away, already planning the complaint that would most likely only be filed in my own head.
Surprisingly the trek to the football stands was barely challenging, with only a slight limp to indicate my 'handicap.' My mother had a much more difficult time. So difficult in fact that once we reached the packed stands she simply collapsed on the bottom of the stairs, unable to go another step.
I was leery of my ability to climb up the stands, especially since I would have to squeeze past the people who were jam-packed on the first two rows. I spotted a small opening in the third row however, so I determinedly gritted my teeth and began my ascent, leaving my poor mother languishing at the bottom of the stairs.
As I approached the third row I was stopped by a woman who was ignorant of my struggle with MS. "These seats are saved," she firmly informed me. For a split second I wondered what she would do if I sat down anyway, but then I remembered my manners and valiantly pulled myself up two more rows to the next available seat.
I knew Mom was fading quickly, so we only remained at the game long enough to take the necessary pictures of the girls performing their cheer routines. Amazingly, those people whose seats were saved never actually showed up to claim them.
As I began to descend the bleachers an hour later I realized I was in big trouble. Unless I am mistaken, that was also the same moment that the woman who was saving seats realized that maybe she should have just let her friends find their own seats.
A severe muscle spasm (known to MS'ers as spasticity) wrenched through my left leg, filling my eyes with tears of pain. Each time I lifted my leg over another bleacher the pain ripped through my thigh, making me grimace in agony. By the time I reached the bottom of the bleachers I barely had enough strength in my leg to stand upright, and tears were running down my face. It took me twice as long as it should have to hobble back to the car, with my nine-year-old bracing my left side to keep me from collapsing.
Now that I am home I still have limited use of my left leg. The muscles were actually pulled by the spasms, which means that my leg is going to be very sore for at least a few days. Guess I'll need to use that handicapped parking after all. I only hope that it is actually available for my fifth try. :)
After arriving home I also learned that my poor mother was livid about the fact that I had to climb halfway up the bleachers at the football game. It was only by the grace of God that she managed to keep herself from throwing a fit and telling the woman off.
Just to clarify- Mom and I understand that the woman on the bleachers was not directly responsible for my subsequent leg spasms. She obviously had no idea that climbing the bleachers was so difficult for me, and we hold no grudge against her. However, we have decided that we need a plan in order to avoid such calamities in the future. Therefore, do not be surprised the next time I go out in a public if I am wearing a t-shirt advertising my handicap: Warning! I have MS. Please give me special treatment as necessary. (grin)