“The first time I met Jan was at work. She was very shy, and pleasant to talk to. But it was more than that. It was one of those times when something just clicks. However, she was married and so was I. I told myself that my attraction was just a fantasy that I should just get out of my mind. Turned out that both of our spouses didn’t follow that same rule, and over time we both became single. It happened to her first, and when I heard about it my first thought was that she deserved so much more in her life.
Later on, when my wife strayed from our marriage, I too deserved better. A year later, we were married, and soon after had our first child. Things were going great, and soon we had another child on the way. Next, I lost my job of 18 years. Talk about a shock. Jan had just quit her job to be a full-time mom and was 8 months pregnant. We had many late-night talks on what to do, and how to do it. We would take long walks to talk about our unsure future. We decided to sell our house, build another, and start a wood business.
She was my left hand for the next few years. We built together, cut wood together, and made money together. Everything seemed to be coming true, and our life was happy and productive. Life was good to us. Then my mom became quite ill, and we both agreed that having her live with us was the only option other than a nursing home. It ended up being a difficult situation for all of us. There were good days and bad days, but Jan took very good care of Mom no matter what. We started making our long walks an everyday thing. It gave us time to reflect on things and plan each day.
One day at the end of our walk, I noticed that Jan was dragging her right foot just enough to scuff the ground. She had always been a bit clumsy and I had even teased her about it. We dismissed it as being a little out of shape and being the end of the walk. Our solution was to increase our walking distance to get her legs stronger. As time went by her foot drag got worse, and one day the couple next door walked with us. They both smoked and were overweight, but had no problem with foot drag.
We decided to make a doctor’s appointment. Not long after, Jan was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. As we did our research, the future seemed grimmer and grimmer. Jan till this day has never cried once, and has never complained, or felt sorry for herself. I wish I could say the same for myself. But I made up my mind that I would do everything in my power to make her life as normal as possible anyway I could. We made up our minds to not let it take away the life we loved.
Over time, it affected her ability to walk very far, and one of our favorite things to do was long walks. So, we did an exercise routine daily to strengthen her legs. We lived our life every day together while pretending that nothing was wrong that could not be solved with love and determination. MS can be a sneaky demon and has its way of stealing a small piece of you each day. I gave her a shot once per week of a drug that makes you feel like you have the flu. It hurt me to stick that needle into her leg each week, but options were slim.
Despite everything we did, the monster continued to slowly damage her nerves and take its toll. I eventually made her a cane, but that daily walk was getting harder and harder. Just getting up the stairs was becoming more and more of a challenge. Soon she was no longer able to help me, and I had to become a one-man show for our business. She became the bookkeeper and full-time mom.
Our daily walk was no longer possible, and I searched my mind for a solution. One day watching television, I saw a Chinese Rickshaw on an old show. A switch flipped in my head, and I knew my new mission. With my name being Rick, it just made sense. I am kind of an inventor so my family was used to my latest million dollar ideas that never seem to make a million dollars or even ten dollars. So when I revealed my plan, I got the normal head bob and the good for you response. Even Jan questioned my sanity. I was not exactly a spring chicken, and the idea of me pulling her around in some wooden thing was sketchy at best.
I remember the first time I asked her to sit on a piece of plywood so I could find a balance point. She willingly sat down on the crude seat while I moved it back and forth to find what I needed. ‘Won’t I fall off this seat’ and ‘will It have brakes of some kind?’ She asked with a less than secure look on her face. I was like a mad scientist who had no time for such details. My response was to just trust me. ‘I have never hurt you yet have I?’ She nodded and went back in with a puzzled look.
When it was finally complete and ready for the maiden voyage, I felt like I was asking her to get into a homemade airplane. She stepped into it and sat down. ‘Hey, this is pretty comfortable,’ she said with a smile. As I picked up the front and tipped her back in her chair, her eyes grew bigger. ‘It won’t tip over backward?’ she asked. And away we went, down the long driveway, and on down the road. ‘This is kinda cool,’ she announced with a little grin. ‘How is it for you?’ It didn’t matter how it was for me, I would have broken both legs to take her on that first ride.
But in reality, it was not hard at all to pull her along. It ended up weighing around 25 lbs, and the big wheels made it very easy to pull. It is designed for her weight and body form, and has a suspension system for a smooth ride. It also quickly breaks down to fit in the back of our car. My homemade Rickshaw worked, and now instead of me going on a walk alone and coming home to report on everything I saw, she could come with me, we could see it together once again. Since then we have had the whole family take turns pulling the family Rickshaw with the love of our life right there with us on every turn. It didn’t solve every problem, but it sure did help one of them.
For other people that have a similar situation in their life, I would give this advice. Take life one day at a time, and when life throws a brick wall in front of you, just build a ladder and cross the wall. I know as long as my legs are still strong enough to walk, Jan and I will still have those long walks in the woods.
Where there is a will, there is always a way, and we will continue to find our way as long as we can.”
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