Guest Post – Choosing Wheel Love by Adele Berndt

I was single and looking for love.

I had baggage and scars but was determined to not let that take over. Instead, I would focus my search on a man that would be the opposite to what I had lived with for so many years. He had to be smart, funny, mature. He had to have his “shit” together, personally and financially. He had to be open, kind and loving. Most of all, he had to accept and love my girls and treat them as his own.

Online dating sites dominated this search of mine, mostly due to the fact that through the years I had lost touch with all my friends. I had moved so many times through the years. My interests didn’t seem to be leading me to meet new people. Being a single shift working mom, I didn’t have a lot of opportunity to join groups, go out on the town, or do the things that many people do to meet others.  So online dating it was. I came across my wheel love on the most notorious site first. I am a little ashamed to admit this but when you are searching as many profiles as these sites have to offer, you have to have criteria. I did my first cut by whether or not I found the face in the profile picture attractive or not.

I came across this person smiling at me in a green shirt and he had an “alive” quality to him. His smile wasn’t just from his mouth; it seemed to come from deep inside somewhere. It made me smile at my computer screen in return. I was intrigued. I opened the profile and read. Wow!! Was this guy active or what?! He had so many interests and hobbies! He was funny and interesting and then as I came to the end of his write up, I found honesty. He is in a wheelchair. Huh. OK. Well what would that mean for me? I closed the profile.

Each time I did a search, he caught my eye. I read his profile again and again, and looked at his pictures often. He was intriguing- but no. I like to hike. I like adventure. I want someone who can keep up with me, push me to do more, be …. I don’t know… what? So, no. I didn’t message him. Then, months later, I was fed up with the losers and users on this site, so I decided to invest a bit of money on another hoping that it would yield more desirable results. Then, there he was. Again! However, this time he didn’t leave it up to me to keep visiting his profile. He messaged me! This was the push I needed to speak to him. We began by messaging on the site then exchanged phone numbers and began to talk on the phone – as we all know texting is the lowest form of communication there is! We also invited each other to our facebook profiles, although, I had already done a bit of cyber stalking on him! Becoming friends on facebook also allowed us a little more access to see a little bit more about who this person was. He was even funnier on the phone than in his profile, and his voice had a wonderful quality that I really enjoyed listening to. He was articulate, smart and sweet. He was sexy!

So, I knew the time would come that we would meet. I was a mess but probably not for the reasons you are thinking.

No, I wasn’t worried about him being in a chair anymore.

That initial reason that put me off messaging this guy in the first place had disappeared the moment we began to talk on the phone. The reason I was worried… jeez, how do I say this without being totally superficial and shallow and self centered…? The reason I was worried about meeting him was that I thought from his short angle that it would make me look fat! Yes, I know, not a proud declaration but it’s the truth and often if we are totally truthful, we are focused on ourselves aren’t we? So there it is. I decided to get over myself and meet this man who made me laugh so hard I had tears and who kept me on the phone for hours like I was a teenager again! I am glad I did too.

Tyler was so up front with me about his paralysis and things he has to deal with. He explained things to me, some of which I had already knew about through some nursing experiences, but others that I did not. When you meet someone in a chair and have a romantic intention, the obvious first question is sex, but he had already taken care of that question in his profile so there was no awkwardness when we met. The sparks flew and our first date lasted for 2 days. We were totally inseparable after that! All of the qualities that I was searching for in a man were there! He is kind, funny, intelligent, he has an even temper, he is health conscious, he is active, and he has his “shit” together financially and personally.  He is loving and is wonderful with my girls – now “our” girls.

 

When the wheel deflates, just a little bit….

 

Relationships are hard. They start out as blissful, romantic, exciting and impossibly perfect. I think that these qualities can last, and the lucky ones have this through all the trials and tribulations. I count myself as one of the lucky ones. Tyler and I have been living together now for three years and things have been better than I could have ever expected. But I’m not going to insult your intelligence here either. We have regular couple issues. However, we also have issues that arise due to his ‘situation’ (as he calls it). This comes into play in our life in both positive and negative ways.

Although we have our troubles as a couple, I want to tell you a bit about my own personal struggles.  Some of which I am scared to admit to even myself, let alone him and all of you! Some of these struggles are a direct result of his situation, but I don’t begrudge him because of that. He has so much more to deal with than I do. I chose to be with him and chose this adventure. I still find I struggle with some things, but don’t always feel like I should complain. I however, will.

Relationship challenges are as universal as they are unique, but some of you who share in wheel love may identify with these a bit. I must say, it makes me slightly nervous to voice them out loud to Tyler himself, let alone to everyone reading this! But when this posts goes out and the rubber hits the road so to speak, there will be no going back. This blog is about being open and honest and forthcoming about all things ‘handi’, so *deep breath* here we go!

Issue number 1. Do you have storage issues at your house? Trust me, you don’t. This is unless you live with someone in a chair. We live in an average sized house – 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms up and an entire basement he can’t access so naturally he requires some storage space on the main level. But wow, we have some major storage issues that drive me nuts! Like, really? Do you really need 3 SPARE chairs available upstairs? Interestingly enough, yes he does. You see, us uprights have feet, so when we need our cross trainers or our court shoes or heels or dress shoes….you get the point…we can store them pretty compactly. This guy? He has a basketball chair, a tennis chair and a spare day chair, not to mention the old work chair that he uses… and you can’t store these babies in a hanging shoe rack on the back of your closet door! No, these chairs can take up to 4 square feet easily! In addition to these chairs you of course need extra wheels, many extra sets of tires, 10 boxes of tubes, air pumps, tube patch kits, extra seat cushions, tools, 6 boxes of catheters, 4 boxes of rubber gloves, 10 tubes of sterile lube plus many other “situation” supplies. So yes, I get the reasons and requirements, but for heaven’s sakes, does it all have to live inside the house? I must mention to you that he does have a 1000 sqft shop AND an entire man room that he has access to….sigh. Do you also recall me telling you earlier that this guy keeps active? That he has hobbies? Well, yes you guessed it! We have sit skis, fly fishing stuff, remote control cars, you name it he’s probably tried it and it probably lives in our spare room……inside our little house that we share with 2 teenage daughters.

Issue number 2. Sex. Yes, it happens. Yes, it’s fantastic! I will toot his horn here because well, he deserves it! He’s pretty great in that department! But as you can probably imagine, there are some modifications required. Positions such as your standard missionary position takes some innovation, flexibility and strength indeed! Sometimes you really need to be creative and think outside the box at times, and when you do, you can find some pretty awesome modifications. Other times we find ourselves in fits of laughter from one mishap to another, some caused by him and others by me, and yet other times are difficult and frustrating. Adaptive equipment has a looooooooong way to go in my opinion, and the old standbys are usually the easiest and most effective! (ie, day chair). But it can be difficult too. Planning and scheduling has not been the sexiest option for me, and well, for us to have actual intercourse, it’s quite necessary. Pile that on top of kids, jobs, daily chores, etc, etc, etc, then well, sex becomes less and less a priority and way less frequent. Even in a relationship where both are able bodied the everyday can strain the sex life, add spinal cord injury and the need to take medication, and it feels like a chore at times, which kills the sex drive faster than imagining sex with your ex!

Issue number 3. Doing blue jobs! I am all for feminism, I am a feminist myself. I don’t agree with jobs having a gender assigned to them, but am the first to admit that I have absolute preferences for pink jobs! I am not fond of changing my own tires, changing my own brakes on the car, fixing the fence, or anything of a mechanical nature. I’d rather not be the one mowing the lawn or shovelling the driveway (which I am lucky to not have to do as a few of his toys consist of snow blowers and ride on mowers!).  When you live with a man in a chair, you are the designated body to reach, stoop, climb and crawl to places he cannot access on his own! And this also means you had better be damn sure you are good at explaining what you see, or you better have a camera handy to snap a shot at what you are looking at! I’m the first to admit that I have issues with communicating and finding the words to explain what I am seeing. So when he asks me to crawl under the side-by-side ATV to look at some who-knows-what jumble of metal and bolts and tell him what I am seeing, it’s a recipe for frustration! No, I don’t know what I am looking at under here, and no I don’t know what the hell you are saying! Here let me take a picture for you! Oh and you want me to drill what where? Wedged into there? Upside down?? Okaaayyy (which I say with much trepidation!) and that’s just one job of many that I have been asked to help out with. There are many others that I admit I am quite uncomfortable with, but am all too happy to oblige. For instance, just recently we had our youngest daughter realizing that the makeshift room we have set up for her in the basement will no longer suffice – she is now 11 years old. She is asking for four walls, so that means we need to build her a bedroom in the unfinished part of the basement. Tyler is quite comfortable with this project, however this definitely lives outside my comfort zone and I know I am going to be the designated body that will be lifting, reaching and hammering in places he can’t access. So here comes a new trade my way! Wish me luck!

Issue number 4.  Sleep. Some of us are night owls, and some of us are early risers (which often means bedtime comes around pretty early in the evening). Me? I prefer mornings. I love a cup of coffee with my computer in the quiet of the morning. Tyler is more of a gamer-till-1am type. Many of you probably share this same issue in one version or another. What many of you cannot realize, unless you share a bed with a person in a chair, is how disruptive sleeping through your man “sneaking” into bed in the wee hours of the morning can be like! So imagine if you will, getting on the bed without your legs. It can rock the bed pretty violently at times! Especially if your guy has some spasticity issues during the transfer! Some choice words will be muttered, some ramblings about “F**ing @$$holes” can be heard in the dark (referring of course to his legs), and sometimes, although rarely, he can lose his balance, catching himself just in time from falling on you but catching your hair in the meantime trying to rip it out of your head!  There was one time that I was getting my knee smacked repeatedly, until I moved it down and asked him why he was doing this. His reply? “Oh! that was your leg??” Yes, peaceful sleep eludes me at these times. I just wish they didn’t happen on days I have to head to work for a 12hr day shift at the hospital! However, a huge bonus here is that I can stick my ice cold feet anywhere I like to warm them up on a cold night and he is none the wiser!

Issue number 5 and final…well for this post anyway...  I love how active he is. I love that he has tried, achieved and done so much. I love that we go camping each summer with the kids like our parents did with us. I love that we ride bikes together, fish together, go boating, tubing and skiing with the kids, and kayak together. I love that he had me try to play wheelchair basketball and tennis with him, that he bought a side by side ATV because it was something we could enjoy together. I love his eternal endeavours! He is always seeking out ways to do things, to live life! But my issue? I love to hike and snowshoe, and in my search for a partner, this was a major influencing factor. I wanted someone to hike and backcountry camp with. This is something that we sadly can’t do together. I’ve had to come to terms with this loss. I have boxed it up and set is apart as an activity that I do with my sister, not my love, which hurt. It has been hard for me. But there is so much we CAN do together, and DO do together that makes it easier.

All in all though? Tyler is really great at explaining things. His communication skills when it comes to walking me through a task are top notch.  He walks me through so much stuff I have never had to do before and I have learned so much because of him. I also respect that he would much rather do these things himself and feels bad when he has to ask me to do things I would just rather not do. I love that I can do these things and that we really work very well as a team. I often wonder if this was a skill he has learned due to his situation or if he was naturally good at explaining things. Our youngest daughter had one of those ‘out of the mouth of babes’ moments, she had asked him once “did getting hurt make you “funny”?”. You could see her wheels turning and wondering if this is a tool he uses to deal with all the situations and frustrations he has to deal with each and every day.

Finding Tyler was the best thing that has happened to me. He has enriched my life in so many invaluable ways. He has been there for me like nobody before him as EVER been. He has held my hand, been my guide, been my support, been my stability when I have been knocked down hard.  He is the father my kids need. He offers us his love each and every day. He has inspired me, yes, the dreaded word of this community! He has inspired me to not dwell, but to figure shit out. To move forward. I admit that I am not good at this part, but he helps me with that because he is a friggen expert. He offers reason and logic when things don’t make sense to me and love and support when illogical and unreasonable things happen. He is there for us, and I am only too happy to be there for him. I want to be.

 

 

I choose to be in Wheel Love.

 

Pushing on…

Adele