By Judy Reiss
I have thought about writing this piece for you for quite a while, but this past week brought it to mind almost hourly! If you wonder why I am writing this, please know that there will be a moral at the end.
Since I have been handicapped, I find walking difficult, at best. But I have been amazed at how kind people are that I don’t even know. That is why what happened this past week gave me an opportunity to think about how to take care of myself and how to accept help when needed.
I went to a wonderful resort in St. Lucia in the Caribbean, and I went because my daughter Sarah and her wife Rene invited my friend of 50 years and I to go. I was (and still am) thrilled to go. And the week before we were supposed to go, I called the resort to be sure that Birgit and I would have a room near Sarah and Rene because of my difficulty getting around. I was assured that we would be close. Nothing else was said and what they neglected to tell me was that this resort was not handicapped accessible. When we got there, our room was on the second floor from the beach, the pool and most of the dining areas. That meant I had to walk a long, long way to get to the stairs to get down to those areas.
Now, you ask, what is our problem and here are my thoughts. When I called about the room and told the person on the phone that I was definitely walking etc. impaired, they should have told me that the resort had absolutely no ability to make my stay more user-friendly. If they had, then I would have had two possible solutions. I could have decided not to go or to bring something, probably a walker, to help myself. Instead, I had to try and go it with only my family and friend to help me, and quite often members of their staff. None of which was I happy about! And all this could have been taken care of if I had known and what accommodations I would have to make.
Now I want you to know that the weather was wonderful and the staff amazingly helpful and friendly. And, of course, I had a terrific time. Unfortunately, I was in a great deal of pain for my entire trip unless I was sitting down, which I did whenever possible. But walking was just terrible.
So, here are my thoughts about the whole experience. Because I don’t get to travel much anymore and it was the first time I was able to go with my daughters and friend, I was going to go regardless. But I think that the resort was afraid that if they told me the truth about their facility I would decide not to go and ask for my money back. Truthfully, I would never have done that. All I needed to know was the truth. I knew then and I know now that they had no ability to change their facilities, but I could have made my visit so much better. In case no one has ever told you, pain sucks!
The other thing I learned on this vacation was that there are times you have to accept help, whether you like it or not! My best example is when we decided to take a tour of the island. When the tour vehicle arrived, I was very worried. Although they said it was a jeep, it looked like a truck to me, and the seats were all lined up on either side of the rear. I just couldn’t figure out how I could ever get into it, although sitting in the seats would be no problem. But Wayne, our guide, said “No problem” and he hoisted me up and put me into the seating area. And although I have lost a lot of weight, I still think I probably outweighed him by 30 pounds! Although we made several stops, I stayed in my seat and talked to many of the lovely people who lived and worked in the area. But when lunchtime came, I knew that I would have to leave my seat and get down. Now, we had made friends with the other people on the tour and three of them were burly older men. Without my even asking, they passed me from hand to hand until Wayne caught me on the ground.
A wonderful lunch was served and with very little help, I made it to the restroom. But then there was the ghastly problem of getting back into the jeep/truck. I shouldn’t really have worried. Wayne and the other three friends again grabbed me and actually lifted me up. Before I knew it, I was back in my seat. When we got back to the resort the same guys laughed and passed me around again and put me on my feet and all said if I needed any more help during our stay, to just let them know. Can you believe it?
Was I embarrassed? You bet. Did it bother the terrific guys who helped me? Not a bit. So the moral here is take the help when you need to and then relax and enjoy yourself. It is a lot better than sitting at home and refusing help.
Now that I am home, here are my thoughts. I had a wonderful time that would never have happened had I not gone. It will be a trip that I remember forever! Could it have been better mobility-wise? Yes, it could have. But I am proud that I put my pride away for the week and took help whenever it was obvious I needed it. And that is harder than it sounds. But if you want to go and if you want to do things that you can’t do sitting at home, put your pride aside and just take help and have a good time.
And this is my moral for this week. It is time to realize that growing old is not for sissies! But to do it with as little problems as possible, help yourself when you can and take help when you need it. If you don’t, you will miss out what life has to offer, even if you are older, although wiser, than you were when you were young.