An Amazing, Life-Changing Week!

This week has been so amazing! I promise that I’ll get back to house projects next week, and I’m still going to work as hard as I can to meet my goal of finishing the bathroom by the end of June. But this last week, home projects have been the last thing on my mind.

As you probably know, Matt and I bought a wheelchair van last week. If you missed that story, you can read about it here. We knew the van was going to be delivered last Saturday, but we didn’t know what time. So Matt got up early, and I got him ready to go out into the world for the first time in years.

Sadly, by the time the van was delivered and all of the paperwork was signed, it was pretty late in the afternoon, and Matt was too exhausted to go anywhere. I did get him into his wheelchair and loaded up in the van so that I could practice attaching all of the straps and the seatbelt, and then we went for just a very short drive around our neighborhood. We drove for less than five minutes, and then he was ready to go home and lie down in bed.

He had asked me about the possibility of me staying home from church on Sunday morning so that we could go for a drive and out to eat, but later on Saturday evening, he decided that I should go ahead and go to church on Sunday, and we’d plan something for the next day since it was a holiday.

So Monday morning came, and I wasn’t sure if he was going to chicken out (I mean, just think about what this must feel like after being housebound for 13 years), but he got up early and was determined to leave the house. He was excited and nervous and emotional. We both agreed that no matter what happened, we wouldn’t panic or get frustrated. If something happened where he felt panicked or overwhelmed, I would simply load him up in the van and drive straight home. I wanted him to feel comfortable and relaxed and know that I wasn’t going to keep him out against his will. He was in control of where we went and how long we stayed out.

I’m so glad that we have the amazing wheelchair ramp from the back studio door that leads to the carport, because it’s so easy for him to get out and into the van. And I ABSOLUTEL LOVE that we got a rear entry van! I can park anywhere and still get Matt in and out of the van easily. I’m not confined to parking in the specific wheelchair accessible parking that has the space on the side for van access.

And here was Matt on Monday morning, about to get into the van for his first real outing in about 13 years. He was emotional, but excited, and giving me a fist pump in the air. (Sorry that these next three pictures are blurry. They’re actually screenshots from videos that I took. I may share the videos later on my Instagram stories.)

And because I didn’t want ANYTHING potentially ruining this outing for us, I didn’t change his shirt before we left, so he had a shirt on with remnants from the previous evening’s dinner that he ate (and spilled on himself) while reclining in bed.

I also didn’t attempt to remove his Hoyer lift sling from underneath him (that the green thing you see). Those types of things (like changing shirts) seem easy and effortless to most of us. But they absolutely deplete Matt’s energy. And I could just see me changing his shirt and removing the Hoyer lift sling, and then him convincing himself that he was too exhausted to actually leave the house. I was determined that that was NOT going to happen. So we headed out as is — dirty shirt and Hoyer lift sling. And honestly, I couldn’t have cared less. There were much more important things at work here than to worry about a dirty shirt and a Hoyer lift sling. As he gets more used to going out, and as we learn together how to navigate this new chapter, we’ll both get better at it.

Anyway, once I got him all secured in the van, he seemed pretty relaxed! I had to put a t-shirt under the shoulder strap so that it wouldn’t rub against his neck, but we’ve since learned a much easier way to do that so that the bare strap won’t hurt his neck.

We went to Rosa’s Cafe for breakfast, and once we ordered and headed for a table, he got pretty emotional. I mean, y’all! This was his first time eating inside of a restaurant in 13 years! And seeing him get emotional made me emotional as well. I’m sure people were wondering what the heck was going on with the couple crying in Rosa’s. 😀

We had such a great time having breakfast together, and I was so glad that we went for breakfast instead of lunch because they’re not busy at all in the morning. I think it would have been a lot more overwhelming had we gone for lunch and had to work around the lunch crowd.

After our leisurely breakfast, we headed to Lover’s Leap at Cameron Park. If you ever visit Waco and do a tour with Waco Tours, this is one of the places they’ll bring you. We saw two vans filled with tourists while we were there.

It was a great day with beautiful weather, and we both enjoyed spending some of the day outdoors at such a beautiful spot in the city. After that, we headed to Sonic to get some cold treats. When we got home, I got Matt out of the van and got him situated inside, and then handed him his Sonic orange slush. He took a sip, and with a huge grin on his face, he said, “This tastes like victory!” 😀 (I know I’ve already shared that part, but it bears repeating. Our outing was a HUGE victory!)

I couldn’t believe how smoothly everything went. I had prepared my mind for some bumps in the road — trouble getting Matt secure in the van, or a spilled drink at the restaurant, or something like that. But none of that happened. The whole experience went off without a hitch, and he felt so comfortable and gained a huge amount of confidence being out and about. In all, we spent about four hours out of the house on Monday.

On Tuesday, I figured he’d want to stay home and rest from all of the excitement on Monday, but I was wrong! While he didn’t feel up to going somewhere where he had to get out of the van, he was very excited about the idea of taking a drive around the city. So I got him up and into his wheelchair, and then loaded him up in the back of the van, and we took off.

We drove by and saw the first house that we rented when we moved to Waco in 2005. We stopped by my mom’s house. We drove all over, and he loved being out and seeing the city. After a couple of hours of sight-seeing, we went to a drive-though and got a late lunch, then headed home to eat.

Once I got him settled at home after our outing on Tuesday, he was exhausted and said, “Just give me two days to relax, and then we’ll do something on Friday.” I was more than happy to do that because I’m not wanting to push him too hard. I do want to gently nudge him enough so that he doesn’t give into fears, and so that he gets past the mindset that the van is just for special occasions or emergencies. I want to nudge him just enough so that he understands that the van is for normal, everyday life, and if he wants to get out and go the grocery store, we can do that. But I don’t want to push him so hard that he’s constantly overly exhausted and can’t have any downtime to rest.

So Wednesday, I had lunch with my mom and then went to my church small group that night, just like normal. Matt was glad to have that time to rest up, and as per his request, I was expecting him to rest up yesterday as well.

So imagine my surprise when we woke up, and he was ready to get out and about again! After his being homebound for 13 years, there was absolutely no way I was going to say no. If he felt like he was up to it, I wasn’t going to argue with him or try to talk him out of it. So we loaded up into the van, and headed to Rudy’s for some barbeque. I took several pictures of him there, but this one is my favorite. There are so many emotions being expressed in his face all at once — happiness, excitement, relief, all along with a few tears.

After lunch, I took him to my church so that he could look around, meet my pastor, and get a feel for the size of the church, etc. And then we did more driving around by the river in various parks. In all, we spent about three hours out and about.

To say that this has been life-changing doesn’t seem adequate. I mean, people use that phrase to describe all types of things, and those things generally aren’t actually life-changing.

But this is. I don’t know exactly what caused this change in Matt — his sudden desire to get out of the house and have a life outside of the house again — but I’m just so thankful! I try to put myself in his shoes, and I just can’t even imagine. I have no idea what it must have felt like being home bound for 13 years. And then I have no idea what it must feel like to suddenly be back out in the world, experiencing all of these things for the first time in well over a decade. I also can’t imagine the amount of fear and anxiety he must be having to overcome, but he’s jumping in with both feet. I couldn’t be more proud of him, or more excited for him.

And he’s not ready to show down yet. 😀 He’s already told me that we’re going to IHOP just as soon as I’m done writing this post. And tomorrow, we’re going to see a movie together for the first time in….well…at least 13 years. We were trying to think of the last movie we saw together in a theater, and the last one we both remember was Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (which we both agree was awful). I’m sure we saw something after that, but we haven’t seen a move together in a theater since around 2008 or 2009. Then on Sunday, he’s going to go to church with me, and possibly out to eat with my family afterwards. This will be his first time going to church in about 15 years.

We both agree that we’re going to have to settle into some sort of schedule, like maybe one outing during the week, and two on the weekend, so that I can actually get some work done. But this past week — our first week with the new wheelchair van — I wanted him to be able to get out and about as much as he wanted to. This was INFINITELY more important than a bathroom remodel or any other house project.

Life-changing, indeed.

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