Ed’s note : I met Erik Andersen about 10 years ago at Rolling Inspiration magazine as he wanted to write and be published. And we have been friends ever since. Being in a wheelchair most of his life, his view from this chair is not only inspirational but also gives insight into how it feels being so vulnerable and relying on others to help every aspect of his life. Here he pays tribute to the women in his life, his wife and his mom…
This is my wish: that women had helped me out of the car when we went to visit friends in the Magaliesburg. My wife, son and I had made a trip to The Cradle, to a treacherous (for wheelchairs) and wooded valley. This part of the world is what my body is made of, it knows the ancient rolling hills. Its DNA remember distant ancestors with hand axes.
The car was parked at the most level part of the treacherous path down to a lapa. My wheelchair positioned on gravel and grass so it rocked slightly, not completely stable. Then the biggest men at the party arrived, the biggest of the big men positioned himself along side the passenger door were I was seated. He tugged at me without listening to my instructions. I need to give instructions on how to get me out of a car into a wheelchair, it is a delicate business.
He tugged and so did the others. I wailed my protest and it fell on half-cocked ears, because brawn is capable of forging its way through obstacles, fuck intelligence. Muscles know how to climb mountains, chop wood, and push wheelbarrows. Muscles know how to get a man out of a car into a wheelchair. But they don’t. It requires careful planning and intelligent maneuvers.
In my case, positioning a board that acts as a bridge between car seat and wheelchair. Someone to grip me by the elastic of the pants and slide me over the board out of the vehicle. The other person to take me under the arms to avoid gravity and disaster from toppling me onto the ground. It takes intelligence and finesse and some strength. You don’t have to be a hulk of a person to do it. But you need to have brains and ears to list to instructions from me.
This clearly was not what this group of men had on that day my family and I made a trip to the Magaliesburg. It took about 5 men to get me out and by then my wife had to dress me again. My pants were a tangle that only removing them and putting them on again solved. My shirt and jersey were almost over my head.
When it came to moving the wheelchair down the path I feared it would be broken by the brawn when they tried to conquer a tight corner. Give me woman to help me any day. They are calm, they listen, they use their “kops”. They may not have the same physical strength, but that is not necessary since they understand physics and the intelligent use of supporting with shoulder, legs and gentle movements.
“Women Power” is what I have come to call it after many years of experiencing the might of women getting me in and out of cars, up steps, in and out of bed etc. Women are capable of so much and I have a deep respect for them and their method. Perhaps it is because they do not rely entirely on muscles and breaking through like the proverbial bull. Perhaps it is because they have sensitivity and intuition on top of intelligence and courage.
They are not messed about by surges of testosterone, they don’t need to impress. To them, the curves of the earth and human body are to worked with rather then to be conquered, broken or subdued. I know that the rest of the party in the Magaliesburg valley would have been comfortable had the women been involved with my exit. And I know the familiar wave of respect and gratitude when my wife helps me with sensitivity into bed, making sure my pajama pants are “just right.”
So this women’s month a shout out to all women. Us men have a lot to learn from you. Viva!