When I was a kid I would climb the big sycamore tree in front of our house. I would wear my plastic fighter pilot’s helmet and sling my trusty BB gun over my shoulder and climb as high as I could to protect my village from the Godless commies that might be creeping up to do dastardly things. I liked being up high, above the fray, above the mundane. I liked the clear unobstructed view you could get from being above the world.
We were leaving the lake the other day and I had positioned myself in front of Marty to lift, turn and help her into our car. As I stood in front of her, just before reaching down to slip my arms under hers she said, “Your pants are unzipped.” While speaking she moved her right arm up, pointed with her index finger at my fly, poked me in my unzipped area and laughed.
I looked at her and said, “Thanks for letting me know, but be careful poking a skunk, you never know what might happen.”
She laughed again and said, “I couldn’t help but see it, your crotch is in my face.”
Of course my crotch is in her face; her face, when she is in her wheelchair is crotch level, she sees a lot of crotches and butts, it’s whats at eye level, it’s her angle, her perspective on life. When she looks anywhere she sees a world of butts and crotches. The height from which we view life shapes us, when you are down low you see a lot more detail but sometimes it’s detail you don’t want to see, all the time.
Life in a wheelchair restricts your view almost everywhere. In the grocery store you can’t see the stuff on the top shelf, in the movies you get to sit really, really close, on balconies you get a great view of the rail, at zoos they somehow have managed to put crossbars right at eye level and in crowds you see a lot of asses. It would be great to have a wheelchair that goes up and down to raise people to eye level.
I had no knowledge about life in a wheelchair until Marty had to sit down in hers and I had to maneuver her through the maze and obstacles of daily life. Living with Marty has taught me a lot about different perspectives, she has taught me how easy it is to overlook how we put our best crotch forward to those who can’t really see anything else, who can’t avoid ogling our butts.
The most important and the simplest thing I have learned is something we all naturally do with dogs and little kids, we get down to eye level. It’s really pretty easy to kneel down, sit down or squat down to get eye level with people who are permanently relegated to sitting. Marty reacts better and engages more when she is seeing faces and eyes, not zippers, pockets or panty lines.
It makes sense, we may get some superficial understanding about people by gazing at their butt, but it’s our faces and eyes that give us detail and Marty always wanted the details. I’m just glad I have someone to let me know when the ol barn door is open.