Handicap Parking

Several people laughed at me and thought I was crazy because I used to turn down parking spaces close to stores where I intended to shop. Why? I was asked this question many times. I was healthy, had always considered myself an athlete, and didn’t mind walking a few extra steps. In addition, I wanted to save the closer spaces for those who were disabled, mothers with children, or others who needed to be closer. “Someday,” I thought, “when I’m old and gray with a severe handicap, then I’ll take one of those handicap parking spaces.”
My chance came sooner than I expected or wanted. I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. I still refused to park closer even though my muscles cramped up and I had trouble walking. While I was on medication my symptoms were slight and it still bothered me to take a space when older, more crippled people needed to park closer. I still appeared to be healthy and some people would look at me, point a finger, and shake their heads. They thought I was abusing the privilege. Twice I was questioned by police officers about the validity of me being in a handicap parking space after I was pointed out by strangers who wished to do their good deeds.
On some days after I had taken my medication I looked and felt great and I would never have parked in spaces reserved for the disabled. Yet there were other days when I stumbled and showed the effects of PD. On those days I began to park closer to stores.
My condition worsened, not because of Parkinson’s, but because arthritis had severely changed my knees. All the years of sports and jobs that required heavy lifting had taken their toll. I was still working and walking but my mobility was causing problems. Every day I stumbled along in excruciating pain. But when someone would ask, “How are you today?” I would always say, “Great,” for I didn’t want to bring negative attention to myself.
Both knees were x-rayed and found to be in terrible condition. I put off having an operation because I was afraid and opted instead for other remedies. I tried several injections to add fluid to the knees but nothing worked for long. In a short while I made an appointment to have one knee replaced. The operation was successful but the healing process was slow, especially since the other knee was equally bad. I still didn’t have a good leg to stand on.
I waited three months and had the other knee replaced. By then the first knee was better but still far less than recovered. When I had been cleared to drive by my doctors, I began to park in handicap spaces. I ignored those who pointed fingers. I still looked healthy and now I could walk again. Still in pain I shuffled along, happy to be moving. My knees were still recovering and getting stronger. At that time I made my decision. I was disabled. I chose to park closer, sometimes even in the spaces reserved for the disabled, because I had come to the conclusion my knees were improved but my Parkinson’s symptoms would only get worse.
Today I wonder how I got through the early stages of Parkinson’s and arthritis and wonder where I’ll get the strength to face what the future will bring. I don’t like getting old and crippled but I’m determined I will smile each day and find some way to cheer others up. I’m glad I’m alive. I still have so much left to see and do.
Some days I’m feeling good, but on other days I tire out easily, have tremors, and have trouble walking. I can’t bring myself yet to getting a motorized cart at the grocery store but that day may come. I’ll don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable expecting rights and privileges except for special parking spaces. But then, I’ve come a long way and have a new found respect for those who have handicaps. I don’t want to be in their shoes and discover their pain. I don’t think I’m strong enough. It’s hard enough to face my own future.

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