We spent the past week in Tucson, Arizona, visiting our son Paul. The weather was a comfortable 80 degrees every day and the city is easy to navigate with its wide boulevards. There were handicapped accessible sites like the paved path in Sabino Canyon. We took the tram to the top of the canyon and walked the 3.8 miles back to the car pushing my husband’s wheelchair, admiring the saguaro cactus and mesquite trees along the way. We ventured into the humidity of Kartchner Caverns on a guided tour and oohed and awed at the stalactites and stalagmites. We used the walker to explore many of the excellent used book stores in town. And we spent many mornings in the comfort of Paul’s home, laying on the couch, reading and watching TV.
It was when we went out to restaurants or grocery stores that I missed the comfort of our routines at home. I wasn’t used to the direct and indirect stares of the fellow diners as my husband slowly walked, holding onto my hand. I was conscious of furtive glances once we were seated. I missed the familiarity of our regular dining spots in Los Angeles where the waiter at the Italian place in Santa Monica always says, “Welcome back!” as he hands us our menus. I missed the clerk at the grocery store who always smiles at my husband and asks if he wants to use the handles of the grocery cart for his balance.
Perhaps I have become inured to the stares of others in Los Angeles or don’t notice them as we go about our daily business. Being in a new environment is always fraught with uncertainty when you are dealing with disability. I develop a third antennae and make mental calculations of how far it is from the car to the restaurant, how many steps in the restaurant and how many obstacles are in the way. But sometimes you have to push yourself out of the comfort zone to experience new things.
We had a lovely time in Tucson in spite of the long drive, which we broke into two days each way. On the last leg, after clearing downtown traffic and heading west on the 10 toward home, I cranked up the music in the car and we both sang at the top of our lungs to “My Cherie Amour.” Leaving the comfort of our routines is always hard and sometimes it feels like a long uphill climb, but in the end, it is always worth it.