Tuesday, July 14, 2015

We Went Camping: Part One

Kim and I arrived at Wakeda Campground in Hampton Falls, New Hampshire, around two o’clock on Thursday and started making ourselves at home in cabin number 21, one of three cabins we had reserved. About halfway through the process I offhandedly remarked that cabin 25 had a lot more shade. The weather forecast called for temperatures in the high 80s, and I’m super sensitive to heat. Kim agreed and moved everything down to cabin 25, without complaint.

Just as we finished settling in, the rest of our crew arrived – my brother Andy and his wife Karen, and another couple we had only met in passing once or twice over the years.

We enjoyed dinner and then a roaring campfire. It was all low key stuff. I encountered no particular challenges. The grounds were flat and hard, easily maneuverable in either of my wheelchairs. The transfer from my wheelchair to the bed in the camp went smoothly. I fell asleep within minutes. About an hour later, I woke up.

Although I can’t move my legs, my sensory nerve endings still work. I can feel everything. In this case, my buttocks and my tailbone informed me that they were not happy. The mattress was a piece of foam, insufficient for my needs. A healthy person can roll from sleeping on their left side to sleeping on their back, to sleeping on their right side, and make the best of a poor mattress situation. All I could do was suffer, or wake up Kim to help me adjust my position, which I did at least half a dozen times throughout the night. I estimate that I got two hours of sleep. Kim may have managed slightly more.

After a big breakfast on Friday morning, Kim and I set out to find the nearest Walmart, which was only a few miles away. Mattress toppers ranged in price from $7.88 to $140. We settled on a 1½ inch, queen-sized memory foam mattress cover for $38. We folded it in half so I had a 3-inch cushion to work with. The next two nights I slept as comfortably as I do at home.

The Biggest Challenge

Adapting. Overcoming obstacles. Taking risks. That’s what Kim and I are all about.

I’m not referring to accessibility issues like the one above. That’s child’s play. I’m talking about the courage and social skills it takes to spend a weekend with people you barely know.

About a month earlier, Andy and Karen found themselves in preliminary talks with both Kim and I and their friends David and Karen about a summer getaway. Everyone’s schedules being what they were, the second weekend in July became the focal point for each discussion. Andy and Karen made the bold decision to combine two worlds, to mix old friends with close family in a single weekend. They sold the idea to both us and the Coles, but everyone knew that the big risk takers were Andy and Karen. If they had miscalculated, if they had reached too far, the weekend could crash and burn, and everyone would blame them.

It’s not like we had no common ground. Four of us – David, Andy, Kim, and me – graduated from the same high school in Lincoln, Maine. All six of us attended the University of Maine. But Kim and I are a bit younger than the other four. Sitting around the campfire, David and I learned that not only did we belong to the same fraternity on campus, Phi Kappa Sigma, but we were each fraternity president during our junior years. We compared war stories from almost a decade apart. I would love to share some of those anecdotes about the inner workings of our secret society, but then I’d be obligated to kill you, and there are so many of you that it would become logistically impractical, so I’ll refrain.

If Andy and Karen were the biggest risk takers, then David and Karen were a close second. They agreed to spend a weekend with a couple they barely knew, one of whom had advanced multiple sclerosis. I don’t know what they thought about in the days leading up to our outing, but if I had been in their shoes I would have had lots of questions bouncing around in my head. Would the guy in the wheelchair be upbeat and engaging or unhappy and withdrawn? How would he interact with his wife/caregiver? How would everything work – eating, sleeping, riding in the car, etc.?

It would have been easy for the Coles to find an excuse not to join us that weekend, but they took a chance, and they deserve credit. Unless I read the situation incorrectly, the weekend didn't crash and burn, and everyone had a good time.

More tomorrow, including the Beach Boys concert…

Other posts in this series:
I'm Going Camping
We Went Camping: Part Two
We Went Camping: Part Three


  1. how fortunate you are to have a partner to face these challenges with you.

    1. don't I know it, Stephen. Don't I know it…