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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Surreal Anniversary

Bob at The Dali
(behind him is an artistic rendition of Salvador Dali's famous mustache)
Sunday was our 18th wedding anniversary, and I almost decided to skip it... I mean, what does one do to celebrate? Pre-stroke, Bob would wake me up in the morning with a kiss and "Happy Anniversary, Sweets!" and a cup of coffee and flowers or some other trinket. He never forgot our anniversary.

We used to go out for dinner and dancing, or spend a day at the beach, or take a little road trip, do some antiquing in the neighboring villages and towns. All that is out of the question now, since Bob can't eat (has a peg tube) and his mobility issues prevent the others.

I did ponder other options: a movie? a stroll in the park? Going to movie brought visions of Bob having to pee half-way through, and movie theaters do not have a pause button. A stroll in the park brings up worries about weather conditions--always a concern with a wheelchair.

I almost skipped it, because, sadly, unless I tell him, Bob wouldn't even know it's our wedding anniversary.

But then, I had a grim thought. What if this would be our last anniversary together? What if we had no "19th"? These days, I do not take things for granted. So I decided we must do something to celebrate.  I began to research local museums, looking for something nearby and wheelchair accessible and not too pricey. Well, turns out they are all pricey, but I rationalized--what the heck? I just saved $48.00 talking to the neuro doc on the phone instead of going in for an appointment. Besides we deserve it, right? And finally, I made arrangements with the wheelchair transport to take us to "The Dali", a museum housing a large collection Salvador Dali's artwork.

Bob's favorite painting. He spent a long time gazing at this,
it's called "Birth of a New Man"

I figured Bob, an rather surreal artist himself, would enjoy The Dali. And the museum bills itself as handicap accessible. Plus they have a cafe. So my thought was to take a tour of the exhibit, perhaps a cup of thickened coffee in the cafe afterward for Bob. Sounded like a leisurely way to spend a few quiet hours on a Sunday afternoon....

So we went to "The Dali" and on the way, in the back of the wheelchair transport, I could hear Bob, he was so excited. He kept saying "Fun! Fun!" and, well, "Happy Birthday"....

When we arrived, I was surprised to see the place was jam packed.

Alas, it turned out that the day of our wedding anniversary was also the day of two huge private bus tours, so, instead of a leisurely quiet afternoon---there we were, surrounded by hundreds of people, including an amazing number of security guards wearing black suits and ear pieces, looking more like secret service than security guards---and me, trying to a push an oversized wheelchair through this crowd...

Of course, immediately after arriving, the first "exhibit" Bob had to check out was the bathroom.

I took him to the unisex/family bathroom. Though marked "handicap", the bathroom was rather small. Between the baby changing table on one side and the toilet and sink on the other, there was barely enough room to wedge Bob's man-size wheelchair.

We carry a plastic "bedside" urinal with us, and to get the urinal, I have to get to the backpack that is attached to the back of Bob's wheelchair. This required some fancy footwork in these tight quarters. A bit of squeezing by plumbing fixtures. Once I extracted the urinal, I had to get back to the front of the wheelchair, flip that special right armrest out of the way and help Bob pull his pants down. As always, this maneuvering has to be done at high speed, as Bob is very agitated when he thinks he has to pee. Then, once he is "set up" comes the waiting, sometimes for 20 minutes or more, as he tries and can't.  This time, of course, he can't... Then, reverse all the above, putting the urinal back, pulling the pants up, putting the armrest back up, squeezing by plumbing fixtures.

By now, it's time for the tour to begin. So, we rush to the elevators, only to be stopped by the secret service/security guard, who notices that I have a (gasp!) water bottle with me. I'm told I cannot take the water bottle with me, because liquids are not allowed in the gallery. He tells me I should take it out to my car. My car? What car? ha! Or else he has to confiscate it. But I don't want to give it up, because this water bottle has a long strap on it that goes over my shoulder, important when pushing a wheelchair, and it took me forever to find a water bottle like this one.  I take it with us, everywhere.  So I tell the guard this, and the guard, very nicely, tells me just to stash it in Bob's backpack and NOT to take it out in the exhibit, or it will be confiscated.  Jeepers, I have everything in that backpack except the kitchen sink. I mean there is a complete change of clothes for Bob, plus two pairs of Depends, towels, latex gloves, bath wipes, thick-up for thickening his drinks, and, of course, a large plastic urinal, and now I'm trying to stuff the water bottle on top of everything. I manage to get it in. Barely, with the zipper only half closed...
My favorite.
The Persistence of Memory
This is much smaller in real life, than you'd expect.

Finally, we get upstairs and find the tour guide, who is waiting to start the tour. I tell him it's our wedding anniversary and he tells me that we are going to get "front row seats" and before the tour begins, he actually tells everyone that we have "front row seats" and asks them to make room for us in front. This was really kind of him, and very much appreciated by me, because the only other time I took Bob to an art exhibit, people kept standing in front of him and he could not see a thing.

The tour went well and was interesting, but lasted over an hour and, though Bob was holding out pretty good, I was starting to "feel it" in the back of my legs--all that wheelchair pushing.  Finally, we get to the last stop on the tour. A painting called The Hallucinogenic Matador. It's there that I can see Bob starting to fidget.

He's moving his hand toward his crotch, a gesture he makes when he thinks he has to pee. And I'm thinking, oh shit. Because I really want to see and hear about this last piece on the tour. I am standing behind Bob, so I put my hand on his neck, kind of massaging it, to calm him down, when suddenly he blurts out, quite loudly, "PEE!"

Oh lordy. Everyone looks at us and I whisper to Bob that "the tour's almost over" and "we'll go to the bathroom as soon as it's over". But he keeps saying "pee! pee!" and is getting very agitated. So, I look behind me but the gallery is packed with people and there is no way I can turn the wheelchair around and head out of there. Finally, after what seems like the longest talk about a painting in the entire history of man, the tour guide says, "And that concludes our tour. Any questions?"

Bob at The Dali by the melted park bench...
And me, I pipe up, "Where's the nearest bathroom?"

And then it's a race, because Bob is freaking out now, and I am trying to quickly dash, pushing the wheelchair, through the maddeningly slow-moving crowd, and finally we get out of the gallery and into the lobby and find the bathrooms.

Again, there is a unisex/family room, but again it is way too cramped in there. In fact, it seems a little smaller than the one downstairs, because now instead of squeezing through the space between the wheelchair and plumbing fixtures, I am more like squishing through the space. I mean, it's really tight. I get to the back of the wheelchair and squish past the toilet, which immediately flushes, as it's one of those new-fangled automatic toilets which sense movement. And I reach into the backpack, and the toilet flushes again. And I take out the urinal, and it flushes again! And every movement I make, the toilet goes BOOSH! and I finally get away from the thing, and as I squeeze past the sink to get to the front of the wheelchair, the automatic faucet gushes out water. GA!

Then, of course, I flip back the armrest and the toilet goes BOOSH! And down go the pants. The faucet goes GUSH!  It's beginning to sound like Niagara Falls in there.

And, of course, after all that, after waiting for 15 minutes or so, Bob still can't pee. So, there I am, repeat the above process in reverse, all the time to the tune of BOOSH! and GUSH! And I wonder, what is anyone going to think, standing outside this bathroom, hearing all of that. And, of course, when I open the door, lo and behold, there is one of those secret service/security dudes, arms crossed, staring at me.

So, I smile sweetly at him and say "Hello!" and say to Bob, "Let's go look at the rest of the exhibit, honey!" And off we go, to look at the rest of the exhibit (the part that wasn't part of the tour).

Of course, now we are running out of time. And I am getting very tired, all this wheelchair pushing and standing around and squeezing past plumbing fixtures. But we have a half hour or so. We manage to catch a few of the rooms, but it's difficult with all the people who are there, and now, without the protection of our tour guide, people continually stand in front of Bob, who can't see a thing. We get to the last part of the exhibit, pen and ink sketches by Dali, which are very interesting, but we look at only a few because Bob decides he has to pee again. aargh!

So back into the automated un-handicap accessible bathroom. Back to the BOOSH! and GUSH! of the plumbing fixtures. Finally, Bob pees. Yes! I dump the contents of the urinal into the toilet and---

Nothing happens. It doesn't flush.

I'm thinking, oh god, we broke the thing.

So I stand there by the toilet, doing sort of a strange dance in front of it, trying to get it to flush.

And finally, it works. It flushes.

18 Years of Wedded Bliss...
By then, it's nearly time for the transport to pick us up. But I want to take a few pictures before we go, so we go outside where there is a rock garden and some sculptures among other things. One of the "sculptures" is this really cool melted park bench, and to get to it, I have to push the wheelchair down a pathway made of crushed shells... Big Mistake. Because, though I get him out there, I can't seem to get him back up, as the wheelchair wheels have sunk into the crushed shells.  I'm thinking I'm going to have get one of those secret service/security guards to help me, and where are they when you need them? but finally, after a few hefty tries, I manage to tip the wheelchair on its back wheels, and hoist it back on level ground --where a nice tourist offers to take our picture.

If I look a bit disheveled, sweaty and tired, well, you know why...

But we had a nice day. It was worth it.

Though I miss those other anniversaries, you know the ones, coffee in bed, flowers, a trip to the beach, dinner and dancing, a road trip antiquing...


Jenn said...

Fantastic - taking in the Dali Museum. I'm so glad you ventured out again. Ain't it a funny thing, those self flushing toilets, automatic sinks. Real pluses in water conservation - NOT. Hope you got a chuckle out of the booshing!!! I certainly did reading it.
Wonder how this visit will/may influence Bob's next sketch (es).
Happy Anniversary sweet ones.

Anonymous said...

Happy Anniversary!!! I too was wondering as Jenn (above) did how the tour would affect Bob's next sketch. Your anniversary trip may have been a bit of an adventure, but it'll be one you'll remember & treasure for the rest of your life.
Love that beautiful smile on your face. Hugs, Dan

metalgirl162002 said...

Sounds like a fun trip to the museum even if things got crazy at times! I want to go to that museum someday!

Anonymous said...

That is a great museum, we have been there. Happy Anniversary!! And you are an amazing woman....
What happened with the lyrica?????

barbpolan said...

I'm glad you celebrated!

Grace Carpenter said...

Happy Anniversary! What a milestone--the anniversary AND the big outing.

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