Friday, July 14, 2006


After a year of going without help, Jane was getting burned out, and wanted to hire help, The person we had interviewed the last time, Emma, was available again, and we hired her. She was pretty hard-headed, and so was a good match for me. She worked out well, and we ended up keeping her for over a year. I'll never forget when Mike asked if she was going to steal our van - he was really traumatized by Keith. She had owned a daycare, and so was more familiar with kids than Jerry and Elaine had been.

Therapy was going well, although the pace of progress slowed down. I learned to pedal a handbike without assistance, wheel my wheelchair if someone pulled my hands into position, use the Total Gym, kick a ball, etc. Around the end of the year they told me that I probably would not be in therapy anymore by June. At least these therapists were straight with me, and enabled us to plan our lives. We decided to stay until June no matter what so the kids could finish school.

About that time our California renters announced they were leaving December 31. After spending all that time fixing the place up. Go figure. It was mixed news. On the one hand, we wouldn't get rent for six months. On the other hand, they were leaving peacefully when I thought that might be a struggle. We heard later that they were breaking up, which may have had something to do with it.

About this time the speech therapist recommended I go to Missoula to Montech to see the equipment they had for disabled people. Montech is funded by the Federal Government by a program designed to help the disabled in rural areas. At first I was unenthusiastic, but agreed to go. What kind of technology could they have here? In the event, I was favorably impressed. Not only was the technology good, it was reasonably priced. I also found a power wheelchair I liked. Back home, a medical equipment vendor fitted it with a head array, so I could drive with my head. My Occupational Therapist, Denise Zander, and her machinist husband raised the seat and put on straps for my feet. We designed a special tray and had a custom plastics guy make it to hold my computer. My speech therapist's husband rigged up the chair with a power inverter, a USB hub and a place to plug in my special mouse. After all of this, I was able to drive and speak all by moving my head. Jane was wary of my new-found freedom, especially after I ran over some poor old man. She kind of liked the control that came with a manual wheelchair.

Once, Jane had a close call. She had to drive Mikala to school early one day, and discovered she had locked her keys in the van. Because they were in a hurry, the girls took Stephen's Honda. The driveway was steep, and as she neared the bottom Jane hit the brakes. Nothing. It turned out Stephen didn't want to spend money to fix the brakes, instead downshifting and then using the e-brake to stop. Jane didn't know about any of this and luckily didn't hit anyone. She came right hom, hitting the fence behind our house to stop. Jane had the car towed to a brake shop later that day.

Speaking of close calls, not long after she started, Emma tried to transfer me herself, and I ended up on the floor. I was unhurt, and Emma made me comfortable. She tended to freak out in pressure situations, and this time she panicked and called Jane. Jane interrupted what she was doing and came home and called the fire department. They came and lifted my sorry butt back into the bed, no worse for the wear. I decided to have some fun, and told all the therapists about it, and to give Emma plenty of s___ about it. It backfired. They decided it was not funny at all, and trained us on the use of the Hoyer lift. The Hoyer lift is a small hoist that lifts you up like a storks carrying a baby. I protested mightily, but to no avail. The thing is a royal pain in the neck. But at least I learned to keep my big mouth shut!

We still had our Chevrolet Suburban back in California. Our friend had it detailed and tried to sell it for about nine thousand dollars. It was in nice shape, but we had put 106,000 miles on it and it was, after all, an American car. Some guy from Tracy almost bought it, so we had my brother out there try to sell it. He had it on the market for over six months, marking it down from ten to six thousand with no takers. Meanwhile, we had gotten to know a used car dealer in Montana who said he would have no problems selling it for a lot more. Based on this, we paid a thousand dollars to have it hauled up there. The guy detailed it and even threatened to buy it himself, then put it on his lot for $9,800. Six months later it was still sitting there, marked down to six thousand. We finally gave it to my brother for $4,500, because he had helped us so much. It seems no one wanted to take a chance on an old American car.

One of the things I did to alleviate boredom was to play Scrabble. My speech therapist was pretty feisty and thought she was pretty good at Scrabble. We decided to go best 3 out of 5 games. Everyone else made book on us. Some people gave me the sympathy vote; others played hardball and voted against me because the odds made it a good bet. In the event, it came down to the last word and I won. I asked her how it felt to lose to a mute quadriplegic. Somehow the pot mysteriously disappeared, but I didn't care. I had what I wanted - bragging rights.

A few people visited us in Montana, always a welcome respite. Unfortunately, Montana isn't exactly on the beaten path, so visits weren't as frequent as they could have been. Email became my best way to stay in touch with people, and I kind of lost it whenever my computer broke. Once I inadvertently urinated on my computer and shorted it out. It took two weeks to repair and I almost went nuts. The computer guy laughed and said "it is a keyboard, not a PEEboard." That was no help!

Meanwhile, relations with the crazy neighbor and his friend, our landlord, continued to simmer. One day we got a note asking for a couple hundred dollars to repair a bullet hole in his house. Realize that this was Montana and everyone has guns. We also lived by some public property where there were old cars, empty beer bottles and shell casings. Every redneck around went there to party. The guy actually accused Nick . Nick asked him, "Why would I shoot your house? And denied doing it. " What was laughable was that when we asked to see the damage And to do ballistics tests, he said he had already fixed his house and threw away the bullet. We know our kids are not perfect but Nick sure didn't ACT guilty. He just liked to blame us for everything bad that happened because I couldn't get in his face. It was an ominous sign. . .


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