One day, you’re going to be stranded in the parking lot of Publix and you’re going to think: why didn’t anybody tell me this was going to happen?
I knew one day I’d need a handicap tag.
I even know that one day I may have to use those electric scooters to get my shopping done.
But nobody told me that I was going to place my order at the deli and then have to tell the lady to stop because I have to go now.
Nobody warned me about how I would have to abandon my cart, the single package of cheese I’d thrown in it, and stumble my way out of the store and into my car.
This is what my mother worries about. That my symptoms will come on suddenly and disorienting, I’ll be stuck somewhere with no way to get home. Or worse still, that I might get desperate enough to drive myself home when I’m not well enough to.
I’ve been having these recurring dreams about driving. They started a couple of months ago, and in the dreams I would put my foot on the brake, but the car wouldn’t slow down—or would only slow a little, and I’d go careening down the streets around my house inches from crashing into other cars and garage doors. Then the dreams changed—an instead of driving, I would wake up in the backseat or the passenger’s seat and watch as the car drove itself unsteadily down the street. I would wrestle out of my seatbelt and into the driver’s seat, grab the steering wheel and try to reach the brakes before everything went out of control—before I drove off the overpass or veered into the crowded adjacent lane.
And the whole time all I’m thinking is: they’re never going to let me drive again, and then I’ll always be stranded—waiting for someone to pick me up.
So I relaxed in my car this afternoon, listening to the radio and waiting for R.J to get out of work so he could pick me up before heading to the gym. And I wasn’t scared, or angry—just grateful that today is not that day where my mom really has to worry about me being too proud to drive under the influence of my disease.
Driving gives me the kind of autonomy that signals a return to normal life. It says, okay—you’ve been in the hospital for eight days and then shuffled back and forth between caretakers, but now it’s time to get back up and see what you can do in a day all by yourself.
My fear is that I won’t have that landmark of progression from incapacitated to rehabilitated, or at least in transition. Losing the ability to drive is a big deal for me. I don’t live in a city with public transportation, and how could I rely on it in an emergency like that anyways? My car accidents scared me (even the one that wasn’t my fault!) because they showed me just how vulnerable you can be — even in a two-ton Toyota.
Today though, I’m home. And my car is even back in front of my apartment thanks to R.J and one of our friends. Thinking about it now, was I ever really stranded at all? I’d like to think of it as just safe and waiting.
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