Speak for Yourself, Jan

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Dang it! Who put away the dishes?

Oh, sure, normally I would be happy to go into the kitchen and find that all of the dishes had been put away. Since the amputation, however, the dishes drying in the drainer are sometimes all I can reach. (No, we don’t use the dishwasher on a day-to-day basis.)

Say I want to have a bowl of strawberries. I need a bowl, a knife, a fork, and, sometimes, a sprinkle of sugar. I can get the strawberries, the knife and the fork. I could even do without the knife and fork and use my thumbnail to hull them and my fingers to eat them. But I would still need something to put them into.

The bowls are at the back of the lowest shelf in an upper cabinet. The sugar is in the front of the second shelf in an upper cabinet. I can’t grasp either of those with my grabber. I’ve tried leaving the sugar on the counter, but somebody always puts it away. If I wanted something to be put away, it would stay there until it became part of the furniture.

There are days when the foods I eat depend on what utensils, cookware, and dinnerware I can reach. Not to mention the can opener.

You know I complain about inaccessibility at other places. Like when I went to the lab this morning and was given a jar and pointed toward the ladies’ room. Which had a regular toilet and no grab bars.

“I need an accessible bathroom,” I told the person in the lab after checking out the facilities. (Like riding in on a scooter didn’t tip her off.)

“Well, that’s the one we have,” she said.

“I need,” I repeated, lifting up the hem of my skirt to show her where my leg abruptly ended, “an accessible bathroom.”

Poor thing was new. She’ll find it one of these days. I mean, the lab is in a building that also houses an urgent care center and a rehab center. My husband, who’d driven me there, had a meeting, so I just took the stuff home, did my thing, and sent my grandson back with the, um, specimen.

But the truth is, my house isn’t all that accessible, either. The kitchen, as I’ve told you, is impossible; I can’t go onto the front porch because my scooter bottoms out on the threshold. And there is only one bathroom I can access at the moment. Regular toilet, no grab bars, and a sink that’s difficult to access.

So I called a contractor who’s certified to do ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) conversions.

“I need,” I said, “new flooring and probably a new floor. Take out the fiberglass tub surround and install tile. Install a bathtub seat that lifts up and hooks to the wall when not in use and rests on the other side of the tub when I’m showering. Grab bars in the tub — one fixed and one that lifts up out of the way when not needed. Floor-mounted ones on either side of the new, higher, toilet. And a sink I can access better than this one.” (I’m tired of spitting toothpaste down my bazonkers.) “And, oh yeah, this is the water wall: Replace the plumbing and put a showerhead in I can reach.”

When I reminded my husband the contractor was coming and we needed to discuss what was actually needed — not just wanted — he said the house needs new gutters. Sure does. But more than that, Jan needs to be safe in the bathroom. The only “grab bar” I have in the tub is a little handle on a freestanding plastic transfer bench. That I heard crack a couple of days ago when I shifted while sitting on it.

The contractor also believes he can access some stimu… er, grant money — to help pay for the conversion to an ADA-friendly bathroom. I tell you this in case you’re in the same situation. Maybe you could get help paying for it. He did tell me there’s a program in town that pays to install ramps.

Maybe there’ll be enough savings to have the wainscoting I want installed in the bathroom

Or, you know, gutters.

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