Roller Skating Wheelchair

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imageWood paneling walls and a glossy, wooden floor reflected multi-colored lights, strobe lights, and a spectacular disco ball. Entering the building was like taking a time machine back to 1976. The live DJ played deafening music ranging from Prince, ABBA and K.C.and the Sunshine band. I didn’t think it could get any better until I was told that wheelchairs were allowed on the rolller skating rink!

My niece, Zoe, was celebrating her 7th birthday party. My parents and I watched Zoe and 15 of her 6-7 year old friends try to master the art of roller skating. Since the rink was also open to the public, it was crowded, making it more difficult for little ones, and wheelchairs, to skate.

When I first arrived, my sister, Karin, had mentioned that she had talked to the manager, and he said that  he would allow wheelchairs on the rink floor. Initially, I was hesitant because I didn’t want to be a hazard to me, or anyone else on the floor. After bystanding or, in my case, bysitting for 30 minutes, I was confident safety was not an issue. The only issue left was my ego and my own fear of looking silly. This is something I’ve never done before. What would people think? I hate it when negative thoughts creep into my psyche. This type of thinking goes againstthe general philosophy I try and practice. Just  like irritating flies, I quickly shooed them away. I pivoted my thoughts 180 degrees. I’d  rather practice gratitude for being healthy and able to attend Zoe’s birthday party. And now. I am finally strong enough to participate in her festivities. It would be selfish of me not to get out there and celebrate with my niece!

The song that drove my chair to the center of the rink with Zoe and Karin was the classic Hokey Pokey! I forgot you could put so many body parts in and out! What fun! The best part was that Zoe loved seeing me next to her, participating in an activity she didn’t ‘t think I could do.

After the Hokey Pokey, the music signaled skaters back for open skating. I asked Zoe if she wanted to skate with me and she looked at me as if I was crazy! I told her to grab onto my handle bars and keep her feet together.  We started slowly, carefully dodging the traffic. As I picked up speed, I could keep up with the average skater. Zoe’s squeals of delight echoed from behind me as we rounded and  rounded the rink. Her friends decided to grab on to the back of Zoe, making a human train. This idea had disaster written all over it and was quickly broken up.

As I was rolling to the beat with Zoe, a 10 year old boy skated up to me with the nicest smile and sincerely blurted,”You’re doing a great job!!” This small confirmation was a true blessing! I was so grateful that I had decided to get out of my box and on to the rink.

Next thing I knew, as I was whirling Zoe around, a small voice whispered in my ear,”Can I be next?” I was so proud of Zoe because she happily shared a ride with her friend. After 3 laps towing Zoe’s friend, another voice whispered,”Can I have a turn?” I felt like a baton in a very fun relay race! With a new child, I took a few more laps around the oval floor. My saving grace was when the DJ announced the party was over and the rink was closing.

My arms were burning and I felt exhausted . I haven’t been able to push my wheelchair that long, or far, in a long time. This memory was only possible by breaking out of my comfort zone, taking a chance, and not worrying about the perceptions of others. I guess I’ve kind of done this my whole life, and the reaction from friends, family, and strangers is always the same…they are rooting for my success!

More importantly, it gave me the chance to bond with my niece, creating one more lasting memory!