My Dad’s a Goldfish – pushing a wheelchair isn’t easy.

When I was doing my Threave Castle circuit today, which I wrote about on MarySmith’sPlace, here I met a woman pushing a wheelchair. The path is supposedly accessible to wheelchair users but the expression on her face clearly said ‘accessible it isn’t. I felt for her, remembering how I struggled on it three or four years ago – and nothing has been done to maintain it, let alone improve it, since.

I took the Goldfish down to Threave Castle to see the Ospreys, which were nesting there. He was always a keen bird watcher and was still able to identify and name them. It never failed to surprise me what things were kept in his memory bank, and what slipped away. His interest in birds started when he was a young boy, when he did as many young lads did in those days, he collected eggs, only ever taking one egg from a nest. Perhaps those  memories laid down in childhood are the strongest.

The path goes across farmland and there is often stock in the fields so there are quite a few gates at junctions with fields. I scarcely notice them when walking on my own but it was a different matter when having to negotiate them while pushing a wheelchair occupied by a fairly heavy man.

Eventually, we worked out a reasonably effective method. I pushed the chair as close to the gate as I could, leaned over, opened the gate and pushed it away from us. The Goldfish helped by prodding it further open with his walking stick then, as he removed his stick, I rushed through before the gate closed.

From time to time the Goldfish offered to get out and walk to give me a rest! I assured him it was no bother – though it was hard work, much harder than I’d ever anticipated. Short stretches of path were cemented but mostly it was rough path with unexpected dips and hollows.

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As we round a bend and the castle came into view, it was worth the effort as the Goldfish was delighted, saying he’s never been so close to it before. I vaguely wondered if I could get him into the wee boat which ferries people across but dismissed the idea. We moved on to the Osprey viewing platform where every year volunteers set up a telescope trained on the nest across the river. We are very proud to have ospreys nesting here and Wee-sis and I are regular visitors in the evening, as are lots of local people so it is quite a social outing.

At first the Goldfish couldn’t see anything but after the telescope had been adjusted I heard him exclaim and knew he’d seen the bird on the nest. The Goldfish looked round at me, beaming with pleasure.

We returned to the car park – it was much harder work going back as there is more uphill work but we managed. I mentally thanked my Pilates teacher for my strong core and decided it was a great workout for my arm muscles.

A large banner advertising the ospreys was hanging outside the visitor centre. The Goldfish read it out aloud then turned to me and said: “Ospreys, my, they would be something to see.”

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34 thoughts on “My Dad’s a Goldfish – pushing a wheelchair isn’t easy.

  1. That gave me a warm glow, despite the obvious sadness of the memory.
    At least he was always delighted to see something new…
    Wheelchairs. After 22 years in the Ambulance Service, I know something about those. They are rarely suited to any rough ground, and very often are easier to manage when pulled, rather than pushed. But then the occupant watches the world receding in view, which is far from ideal.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

    • We did have some good times and fun times which gave me lovely memories to store up. But, yeah, wheelchairs! Hospital ones were the worst, they really did need to be dragged backwards. I had a few horrendous moments at kerbs both going up and going down.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Mary my heart broke. I don’t know what to say because there are no words. At least when someone dies the cut is clean, even if there are unresolved issues. I am sorry Mary, I feel what ever I say I am just going to make a bloody hash of it. Instead I send my love Px

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, Paul, I really didn’t intend to write a heartbreaking post. Dad enjoyed his outings – even if he never remembered them – and was always (well, almost always) quite cheerful for a while afterwards.

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  3. What a hilarious, bittersweet memory!

    I remember taking my mother to a “handicap accessible” wildlife sanctuary near her house that she had always loved. She thought it would be too much for her wheelchair but I was sure she would have a wonderful time so I insisted. We were halfway up the first hill when I realised how big a mistake I’d made. By the time I’d pushed her wheelchair to the top I was honestly not sure I would have the strength even to hold onto it if we started downhill. Just then one of the rangers came by in a little electric cart and offered to take her around while I (sheepishly) pushed the wheelchair back to the carpark.

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    • O god, I’d forgotten the horrors of going downhill! Arms practically pulled out of their sockets. I don’t believe those people who designate paths as accessible or wheelchair friendly have ever pushed a wheelchair in their lives. Not with a person sitting in it.
      I remember that outing so vividly and can still picture the look of intense concentration on Dad’s face as he lined up his stick and prodded at the gate.

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  4. oh my this is so poignant; it triggers a memory of mum too. At a summer school, after her knee operation, I hired a wheelchair as I anticipated her struggling to make the distance between classes. How right. What I hadn’t factored in were the coffee and tea breaks when the classes broke and the students could pause for fifteen minutes. That meant a jog from my class to mum’s, a dash to the loos, off to the coffee station and back and then back to my class, all the while puffing and dripping while mum regally held court to her new admirers and shared her morning or afternoon’s successes. When one women turned to me and offered ‘isn’t she wonderful, so much energy’ I couldn’t meet her gaze…

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    • I can picture it, Geoff. I’m sure we could all get together and compile a book of wheelchair stories. It would be a bestseller at Christmas. Your story about your reminded me of my boss at the leprosy centre. She’d come to Afghanistan and was going out to visit patients in their homes – no roads so horses were required. She didn’t know how to ride and was scared of horses but off she went. When people praised her for her bravery and stamina she did not tell them that while she sat on top of the horse, a small boy led it the whole way and back.

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  5. Today I took Nick to the dentist, because sitting immobile in the electric wheelchair is to damnably cold in sub-zero temperatures. Forget what assembling and dismantling a frozen steel chair to get it in and out of the car does to you. Accessibility in this country is so hit and miss…even in towns. Dropped kerbs are seldom in the safest or mst useful places, negotiating double doors is a nightmare…especially when they have steps or thresholds…and I’m sure pushing him over cobbles has loosended my teeth! That’s without anything rural…or the hills where your nose is almost scraping the ground going up, and wrists out of their sockets coming down!

    Seriously though, I doubt if anyone who hasn’t had a wheelchair at the centre of their days can appreciate the problems they bring with them.. even worse than pushchairs, because, when occupied, they are so darned heavy. I’m fairly sure that a decade pushing my late partner and nine years pushing Nick are responsible for the dodgy discs…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hear you, Sue. Motorists often park right beside the dropped kerb, too, totally blocking it. As an ordinary pedestrian the pavements seem fine until you have to push a wheelchair on them! Cambers so steep you have to fight to prevent the chair heading towards the street and the traffic. The person in the wheelchair must feel very vulnerable at times. You’re probably right about the damage pushing wheelchairs has done to you. Other countries often seem to do it so much better than here.

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  6. I got my mother stuck in a wheelchair at Dobbie’s once! I’d made the mistake of turning her sideways on a bridge covered by a decking material to look at the ducks in the wee pond below, and the chair got stuck in the grooves. Thankfully, there were plenty passers by to help! I have a paraplegic friend now, and know how appalling things can be – even crossing the large car park at the Fort Kinnaird retail park proved nigh on impossible, as there are so few dropped kerbs, and no indication where they are. Nice post, Mary. Jx

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  7. Great Post, Mary! I can relate to this post and I agree this is one of those instances that lack of memory isn’t a good thing. I am the caretaker of my son’s father who has short term and long term memory since his second severe traumatic brain injury. It’s been a very draining experience and every day he wakes up forgetting yesterday and sometimes an hour ago. It’s been a rough experience and he only had 6 percent chance of living and he is able to do more than they thought possible still so much of him is gone forever and he will forever be my adult child. The reason I tell you this is because I can relate in a way to your experiences with this and I’m sorry. It kills me that he can’t hold memories with his son or our family or grasp simple things. Also my life has been put on hold for possibly for forever because he can’t hold memories. Best wishes to you, Mary! Keep being strong and have a good weekend, my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Rob. Yes, it was often frustrating – like the day I took him out to an exhibition in a gallery followed by coffee and cake, a drive along the coast, lunch and finally, a visit to my sister. She asked what he’d been doing and he said: “Nothing. I’ve not been anywhere today.” At least he enjoyed outings as they were happening even if he forgot them immediately afterwards.

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  8. Your posts always remind me of how beautiful memories are, and when memories become ‘new again’ with someone who is battling dementia, there is a very bittersweet new memory created…latching onto the old memory. The way you write about your father’s battle with dementia brings hope, Mary, even though for me it is one of my biggest fears as my parents grow older. However, the hope is coming across those special moments, as you describe ” It never failed to surprise me what things were kept in his memory bank, and what slipped away.” Wish you a great weekend ahead.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for dropping by. Memories are beautiful – sad, funny, all sorts of emotions mixed in – and very strange. While I hope your parents don’t get dementia I’d say to you not to fear it happening. It can be dreadful at times but there are compensations. I had the opportunity to spend much more time with dad than I would have otherwise.

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  9. Pingback: Smorgasbord Reblog – Voting is Now OPEN for the Annual #BloggersBash Awards – Thrilled to be nominated | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

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