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Humor, positive attitude help resident deal with loss of independence

By Staff | Jan 7, 2010

Ray Buck, an active member of the community, including being a Sanibel History Museum docent, is facing loss of independence with grace and humor.

I flunked the Sanibel driving test for the three-wheel recumbent cycle.

That reminded me of the time in 1952 when I flunked the U.S. Army drivers’ license test when at the wheel of a monster truck with a 155-millimeter howitzer attached behind it. I was instructed to back that big cannon into a parking space. I put it into an Arkansas creek.

There is, of course, no special license needed to ride a trike on Sanibel. If there were, two fine bike rental shops would go out of business. My problem? The foot that opted for the accelerator and sent me and my Volvo into the wall of the City Rec swimming pool two months ago was a reluctant participant in me riding a recumbent trike.

I did have some pleasant moments as I attempted to become at least island-independent by taking on the recumbent trike. Being at a very low level going very slowly down Dunlop Road from the Island Cow corner on Periwinkle to the library, I had opportunity to enjoy the new plantings and how they made Sanibel pleasant what once was a rather bland passageway.

On part of my long rectangular tryout I went down the bike path from Tarpon Bay to West Gulf. The last time I had traveled this path on a bike (a real bike) was before Hurricane Charley. Once again, as with Dunlop, I thought the bikers of today were getting much more of charming old Sanibel than I recalled from six years ago. Unfortunately, it was also the beginning of my sense that I didn’t belong on this three-wheel contraption that sat me back and hugged the pavement. My feet, my leg muscles, my balance. Bad.

Trying to complete my test by ending with a shopping stop, I had opportunity to appreciate the patience of the fellow in the yellow vest directing traffic at the corner of Periwinkle and Casa Ybel. I was crossing after shopping at Jerry’s. My neuropathy legs and feet decided in the middle of the road not to cooperate with the purpose of getting out of everyone’s way. I doubt that folks in the lineup of traffic in three directions were waiting as patiently as the officer was.

In frustration, I tried getting up from the trike to push myself across.

The trike didn’t tip as I got off, but it didn’t help much either. I tumbled, righted myself with some trouble, stood foolishly embarrassed for a moment, then pushed my conveyance of independence to the other side of the road.

I had flunked the trike test. Now, without the credentials to drive a car, willingly surrendered, without self propelled wheels, I would be, as Blanche Dubois said in Streetcar Named Desire, dependent upon the kindness of strangers (and friends and a wonderful wife).

Self esteem returned a bit the day after when I made it to the doctor’s office and Jerry’s on a cane. A very slow walk. What was once a quick pop around the block in minutes took a half hour. Independence whether it was walking (I’ll try to get to the library and back someday) or having someone drive me is now defined by me as a loss of time and opportunity of the moment.