New wheels

Shaina received her new set of wheels a few days ago. Yay, right?

I remember how excited I was when I received my new wheels when I was around her age. My bumblebee yellow scooter had died, and my grandfather replaced it with a “real” bicycle. I was beyond thrilled.

Over the following years, my grandfather proudly provided me with a rickety two-wheeler, then a silver Chopper that had a car-like gear lever, followed by a BMX when those were all the rage and then a professional racer, so I could join him every Sunday for a few dozen kilometres of personal time.

After I passed my driver’s license, he found me a four-speed Mazda 323 hatchback- a veritable Bentley for a yeshivah boy. When Naomi and I settled in South Africa after our wedding, Grandpa had a second-hand Honda Ballade waiting for us.

My grandfather conjured up bikes for our children too. He’d barter and refurbish to ensure each of our children had a set of wheels. Whenever he visited, he would tinker with handlebars, saddles and brakes to ensure every bike was pristine.

Sadly, he passed away before Shaina was old enough for her first bike. She is the only one of our children my grandfather never gifted with wheels.

It’s better that way.

Her wheels are not that exciting. After my grandfather passed away, before Shaina’s seizures started, I dreamed of the fire truck red tricycle I’d buy for her. Grandpa would have loved that.

She hasn’t got her tricycle. Instead- twice a year- Naomi and I mark “No” to the part of the BPAN research questionnaire that asks, “Can your child ride a tricycle unaided?”.

I got the bright red half of my dream when we bought Shaina’s medical stroller. Initially, I hated the idea. Naomi eventually won me over with her pragmatic approach to Shaina’s limited mobility. Pushing a stroller made more sense than trying to carry her through malls. I felt relieved when they delivered Shaina’s “Red Ferrari”, and it looked more “stroller” than “medical”. Her red chariot is an icon in our neighbourhood. Wherever she goes, her fans smile and wave.

Like my old BP scooter, Shaina’s stroller started to show signs of age last year. We realised that Shaina had outgrown her faithful chariot and would need an upgrade. We researched, sourced the funds (these strollers are not cheap) and ordered a replacement for the Ferrari.

When it eventually arrived a few days ago, our kids were mortified. “It looks like a wheelchair!” – they voiced what I wouldn’t dare say. The new model is less “Ferrari” and more “clunky utility van”. Even the colouring is more serious- a sedate maroon that clashes with Shaina’s vivaciousness.

The timing is ironic. Shaina is doing exceptionally well at school. She has integrated into a more advanced class and is more focused and verbal than ever. Her understanding has matured and she constantly surprises us with improved self-expression. All the signs point to progress and development- things we never take for granted with her condition.

And, as we celebrate her advancements, we get the stark reminder of her challenges in the form of her new, very medical-looking stroller. It’s an in-your-face reality check that many hurdles and unknowns lie ahead.

I wish for the days when new wheels for our children brought the thrill of growth and progress.

When my grandfather retired from his car dealership, he started selling refurbished wheelchairs as a hobby. Had he been alive today, he would have insisted on sourcing Shaina’s medical strollers. Only, he would have redone each one to resemble a Ferrari or Rolls Royce- with madcap accessories and funky trimmings.

Perhaps I need to channel his out-of-the-box mischievous nature to redo Shaina’s new stroller so that it matches her equally impish personality.

Published by rabbiarishishler

Husband, father and rabbi of Chabad of Strathavon in Johannesburg, South Africa.

4 thoughts on “New wheels

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: