High desert“It is a waste of time to be angry about my disability. One has to get on with life and I haven’t done badly. People won’t have time for you if you are always angry or complaining.”— Stephen Hawking.
Physicist Hawking speaks here of his experience with motor neurone disease, which is a complication of ALS, a visually discernible condition. But sometimes a person’s handicap isn’t obvious to all.
With the aid of dictation software, I write to you from Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix after a visit with my parents. The flight is delayed due to the hilariously named Tropical Storm Fabio, so Dad and I have some time to hang out before I depart.
I decided to take this trip—planned a while ago—regardless of recent post-eye surgery complications. On bad days, I am unable to focus on the boarding pass-emitting kiosk screens or see if I am headed to the right seat. Rather than try everyone’s patience, I asked for support when I needed it. United Airlines’ staff were fabulous.
Standing in line in Toronto at the Premier Members Only portal to which I had been directed for assistance, I noticed a man huffing and puffing in front of me in a most perturbed fashion. He asked me where my gold card was. “Do you have one of THESE?” he sneered, too loudly and brandishing his own.
I explained that I was temporarily vision-impaired and that’s why I had been sent to this lineup. He seemed to be offended that he had to share his prestige status with lesser individuals with unseen physical problems.
The invaluable gift of my usually inexhaustible good nature allowed me to keep a cool head regardless of his continued indignant snorts. Helpful, caring gate and flight attendants made sure I was in the correct seat on the right flight.
My intrepid travel plans continued with my other senses more engaged than usual. I was especially attuned to the temperature.
The wall of fire that hits you when you disembark at Sky Harbor Airport was all the more “feelable” –Mom says it is like standing in front of a roaring campfire, but all around you – not cool in the back. Hot hot hot! Or, as my friend MaryJane says, “Christing hot!”
Fortunately, I was headed 200 miles east, to the White Mountains near the New Mexico border. En route, I observed the Burgess Shale snaking its way through the strata on its way north to the Canadian Rockies. Even the rocks want to go somewhere cool.
After a scorching pause at the bottom of Salt River Canyon, we wend our way up to the high desert. The smell of pinesap permeates the car. At my parents’ summer cottage near Show Low we spend mornings hiking desert and forest, afternoons sweltering by the pool. A flashing thunderstorm in the purple desert sky offers a night of relief. We finish up the holiday watching a documentary about Antarctica.
Too soon, I am delivered back to the airport. Hugging me goodbye, Dad hands me a small white envelope, with instructions to read the contents once I am in the air. “It’s not money,” he adds with a grin. Tucking it in my carry-on, I make my way to the gate.
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