Monday, January 07, 2008
Alan and His Seeing-Eye Daughter
My father and I had an excellent adventure today. He's eighty-five, can't walk any distance, and is legally blind from macular degeneration He uses a walker or a wheelchair in his apartment and has an electric scooter to take outside, but he's been afraid to use it because of his vision problems. This means that during the year and a half he's lived in Philadelphia, he's only gotten out of his immediate neighborhood if he took a cab to the VA or if my sister took him somewhere, and they almost always travel by car. My father likes to see things (as well as he can), so he prefers surface travel.
Today we had gorgeous weather here -- sunny, in the sixties -- so we undertook an epic journey: 1.7 miles each way from his apartment at 39th and Market to Rittenhouse Square, a very ritzy part of Philly. I wanted to visit a yarn shop there, and my sister thought it would be fun for Dad to sit in the park for a while. She also told us about a nice seafood restaurant where we could have lunch.
We set out, unsure just how long my father's scooter battery would hold out. The trip thrilled him, especially when we were crossing the river, since he loves water. His scooter goes a maximum of 4.5 miles an hour, faster than I can walk, so he gave me a merry workout as I raced to keep up with him. I tried to stay ahead of him, especially at intersections, so I could show him where the curb ramps were, but I often straggled behind, yelling instructions after him. "Dad, stay left! You're too close to the curb! Dad, watch out! Don't run over the dog! Dad, you're coming to an intersection, and the light's red, and you're headed straight for the high part of the curb! Stop, Dad! Stop!"
Luckily, we got to Rittenhouse Square without mishap. At the yarn store, I bought a needle gauge and a book with a pattern for a dolman-sleeve sweater, my favorite kind. The yarn itself was much too rich for my blood. Dad sat in the park while I located the seafood restaurant and asked if they had a scooter-accessible table; they did, and it was even near a window. I bought him lunch -- also rich for my blood, but how often do I see him? -- and then we set out again.
The trip home was a bit more worrisome, because Dad's battery seemed to be fading, and he couldn't go as fast, and sometimes he stalled and had to start the scooter again. On the one hand, this was good news, because it was easier for me to keep up with him, but I worried that the battery would die and I'd have to push the scooter the rest of the way. At one point, going through a construction site, we took a route we thought was an alternate sidewalk, but that turned out to be blocked by a locked gate at the other end. Because of the battery problem, we didn't want to turn around and retrace our steps, so I found a construction foreman who graciously unlocked the gate for us.
To our great relief, the battery held out all the way back to the apartment, so we're both feeling quite jubilant. Dad really enjoys adventures like his, and I enjoy watching him enjoy himself. I enjoyed the exercise, too, especially since I didn't get to the gym yesterday.