Kids teach you things and make you say things you would never have otherwise, like the time I said to my friend on the phone, “I gotta go, he’s got the drill!” The kid, who was probably all of 5 or 6, was looking into home improvement and was loaded for 2x4s.
Turns out caring for your elderly parents provides similar opportunities to explore facets of life you wouldn’t otherwise get to experience.
Like walker wrangling. My coworkers and got ourselves into a fit of laughter, you know the kind you do to avoid crying, over the 1,000s of ways our elders keep us on our toes with their damn walkers.
Afternoons formerly spent sipping cocktails on a patio, boat, deck, or at a restaurant are now spent, first “reminding” your elders to actually use the walker. They may forget the teakettle, but don’t let them fool you that they “forgot” they needed the walker. We know they hate the things and are avoiding it like their endlessly chatty neighbor next door. We may also very well get a lecture on how the other people they know, you know the ones who are really old, don’t need their walker either. They are just using to make their bossy kids happy.
Once we get them near the car, we have to watch out for whatever shenanigans they have in store. Some will abandon the walker 10 feet from the car, calling, “I’m fine!” and reaching for the door, which isn’t even open yet. All we can think about as we try to get the walker back in front of them is a spill on the pavement and the ER doc giving us the stink eye and asking in an accusatory tone, “Why didn’t she have her walker?”
Once we have secured our elder in the seat, now comes the time we can put a cowboy’s steer-roping skills to shame.
First of there are many different walkers and no consistency in how they fold up. Some have wheels, some have skis, some have wheels and skis; some have hand brakes and a basket. Some have a seat. And all have different levers and releases; some fold flat and some need 5 or more inches of clearance.
Here’s a pro tip. Take all the crap out of your trunk or the back of your SUV, otherwise by the time you have moved your crap around enough to wrangle the walker into the car and slide into the drivers seat, sweating and panting, you’ll get greeted with: “What took you so long? I’ve been waiting forever!”
But this is just the beginning. Once we get to our destination, most likely a public place like a grocery store, or if we’re really lucky, a restaurant with a full liquor license, our elder may insist they don’t need the walker. “I’ll hold on to the cart.” God forbid perfect strangers see them with their walker, which they really don’t need, they will remind you. “People will think I’m old!” It’s hard not to blurt out, “That ship has sailed!” However, whether they need it or not, we spent so much time getting the walker in the car, oh, yeah, they are going to use it, if it’s the last thing we do. Now we’re doing the reverse of packing up the walker. Unfolding and pushing on it in all the different ways until we hear the click of stability that helps us avoid the ER doc stink eye. But the joke is on us, because by that time, our elder may very well have unbuckled and popped out of the car and is heading for the door, all the while giving us their version of the stink eye.
For those who have mastered (mostly) the walker, then here comes the wheel chair. In a video game, this would be known as encountering the biggest challenge, aka fighting the final boss. We know we’re at the highest level when we have to wrangle both apparatus. This is a good time to accept advice from other elders, who are more than willing to help out. A group my sister was sitting next to reminded her that she could push the folded up walker on its two wheels while pushing the wheelchair, rather than slinging the walker on her arm, like a metallic, unwieldy purse.
Of course, when we’re not wrangling walkers, we’re hunting down or ordering online parts–wheels or extra skids, sifting through models and types and trying to decide is it really a universal replacement part?
“How did it break?” we ask.
“I don’t know,” says the elder, eyes sliding away trying to look innocent. “They just don’t make things as good as they used to.” And you really can argue this point, because it’s true.
Until we see the walker across the room from where they are sitting and start it all over again. But that’s OK. Walk tall, cowpokes. The Wild West has nothing on us — we’re Walker Wranglers.