Grandparenting from a Wheelchair

by Brice Carroll on July 1, 2006 - 3:00pm

QUEST Vol. 13, No. 4

Grandparenting from a wheelchair is both challenging and rewarding. We have two grandkids from our son Chris and his wife, Heather, who are missionaries in Thailand, and we only get to see the grandkids once a year.

We were able to see our 1-year-old grandson, Elijah, and 3-year-old granddaughter, Monterey, a couple of months ago. We had a great time, but have you ever tried to cram 12 months of grandparenting into a week? It was fun, but hard work. Fun for me, but hard work for my wife, Sharon, though for some reason, grandmothers enjoy changing diapers, cleaning up spills, and bathing slippery, splashy wild things.

Our son gave long-distance instructions about the dos and don’ts that we had to abide by while we had the kids. He actually told us that our grandkids were to watch very little television, have no soft drinks and be allowed very limited candy. Who did he think he was dealing with? We were determined to exercise our constitutional rights to spoil our grandkids.

Finally, he agreed to soften his rules. Of course we softened them even more, well past the melting point. And I’m proud to say that it will take him and Heather months to undo what my wife and I accomplished in a week.

Because he was barely 1 year old, most of the time Elijah walked like a drunken sailor. The rest of the time he sprinted, like a drunken sailor. How a human can run so fast and stay on his feet while weaving, tilting, sidestepping and mimicking a tornado at the same time is beyond me.

From the time Elijah woke up until just before he fell asleep, he was like a little thermonuclear explosion on legs. He wasn’t destructive. It’s just that sometimes things got swept up in his vortex, by accident of course, and were transformed into debris.

It was only when he made no noise for over 30 seconds that we would panic. When he’d hear us rushing toward whatever room he was in, he’d run out with a great big, innocent smile and point toward the remains of the room, with an expression that said, “Look what I discovered. How could that have happened?”

He pointed at everything, and talked about it, too. Occasionally a word or word fragment was understandable.

Monterey, who just turned 3, loved to ride in my wheelchair with me. I really think she would have preferred to ride it without me, but she tolerated my presence well. She did enjoy having a chauffeur, though. We went wherever and whenever she wanted.

I even let her use the joystick once, when we were in a wide open area in the back yard. But I got nervous whenever we came within a hundred feet of a tree.

She really “let the hammer down” when she was at the controls. And to get her to let go of the joystick was like trying to wrest the Enterprise away from Captain Kirk. After that ride ended she politely and calmly said, “Thank you very much, Dandad.” It was as if she didn’t even remember the life-and-death struggle we’d just had with a sycamore tree.

Carroll with grandkids
Sharon and Brice Carroll with Monterey and Elijah

She was especially happy, polite and cheerful when she awoke each morning. Sometimes I woke up with two little eyes less than an inch from mine. I don’t know if she did it to see if I was awake, or because she liked to watch me jump.

Every night, after what seemed like a 48-hour day, Monterey would get sleepy, Elijah would deplete his plutonium and they would both crash. Monterey would go to bed with a stuffed animal and I’d set Elijah in my lap and drive all around the house until he finally fell asleep. Fortunately he almost always dozed off before I did. It was a lot easier on the walls and woodwork when he did.

Having my grandkids for a week was extremely enjoyable, but I was always nervous that I’d hurt one of them with my wheelchair. I can run over the toes of one of my boys, my wife and an occasional daughter-in-law with no guilt, remorse or too much pleasure.

But if I were to injure a grandson or granddaughter, I would be devastated, both emotionally and physically. Emotionally by my conscience, and physically by my wife.

Brice Carroll, a retired accountant, lives in Hot Springs, Ark. He has limb-girdle muscular dystrophy.

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