Dear Wheelchair,

Before you came along there was the stroller, a carriage that my parents would pop me into as we went around Disney World -  I sat alongside my younger brother who is seven years younger than me. (A ten year old girl wants very little to do with her three year old brother, never mind be mistaken as fraternal twins). And before the stroller it was the gracious and gentle arms of adults (usually my parents). Sure, through these means of height and transportation I was able to see much of the world (I saw the Great Wall of China in a baby carrier on dad's back), but I didin't really learn how to experience life until you came along.

Before I had a pet rock or attempted to grow my baby pumpkin that we picked in Kindergarten, you had already taught me what it means to care for something else. You showed me why it's important to keep your quick-release button axles well oiled and cleaned; you showed me what it means to give a little when it came time to release the tightness in your brakes (so I could brake on my own!); or what it means to grow with a person when it was finally time to lower the foot plate another notch (you sat there silently glowing back at me with pride). And don't think that your selfless accommodations have gone unnoticed! I appreciate the countless times when you've extended leg rests to ensure that the gigantic cast on my leg is properly elevated. And when the doctor tells me that he can't see the fracture in my ribs, the way you tilt back ever so slightly lets me know you care about making sure I can still breathe easily. You're there with me through sickness and in health.

My upper body strength has increased exponentially over the years thanks to you. Though I don't have a career in weight lifting or body building, the pay-off has been huge! Up until a few months ago, the last time I broke my arm was sometime in middle school - more than 10 years ago!! At the start of each school year I loved racing around the newly cleaned gymnasium, popping wheelies and doing donuts as I whipped around the pretend ice rink in my head. I'm so glad that you have been able to share that joy with my peers who aren't in wheelchairs, a part of me almost wanted them to be jealous of what we could do and they could not.
On the flip side you are usually the closest thing to me when it's my turn to feel jealous and sit on the sidelines, watching everyone else. Your lap becomes the place where I am able to grow silently sullen, your sense of tough love is apparent as you remain rigid while I slump a little in the seat. You're the space that allows me to feel pitiful without judgment or condescension. But when the moment is over you remind me that it's time to move; you remind me that I have to literally roll myself along because I have a choice, at the end of the day, will I choose to push myself along or will I allow myself to sit there along the sidelines? I'm thankful that whichever choice I make you've literally got my back. 

People who see you and think "wheelchair bound," "handicapped," or "wheelchair dependent" really have no idea what they're talking about. Their lack of understanding fails to take into account the fact that like any other successful relationship, this is a two-way street. I am not always using you, and you're not just some mobility device that is forever accommodating me. Most of those people weren't there when, together, we learned how to open doors that didn't have automatic-buttons; and the two of us know that there was nothing "wheelchair dependent" about showing the conductor of the train how to operate the lift on public transportation railways.
The two of us also know that there is nothing "handicapped" about being able to run someone's feet over, especially if the person had it coming - there is a power and self-righteousness about the position you put me in in society. As I have gotten older you've showed me more of these instances: how to recognize them, what to do, how to act, where to park, how to leverage your four wheels and cushioned seat in a way that allows us to roll onwards to success. These are things that my parents and teachers couldn't have taught me even if they tried - it had to come from you. 

Well, I just wanted to take some time to write a thank you letter of appreciation. I appreciate how you've helped me to experience life in more ways than anyone else could ever dream up. Please know that even though I get annoyed when your wheel bearings give me trouble, and that I complain about your lack of automatic umbrella to shield us both on rainy days - I really couldn't have sped along without you rain or shine. 

Sincerely yours,

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