Babies, wheelchairs and snow shovels

I recently witnessed snowy events in Rochester that reminded me of a wonderful time with my father that included a hurdle for us to overcome.

Southeast Minnesota caters to people with diverse needs. Some use canes, some must walk slowly, others are feeling punk due to treatment or illness, many cart children along — and some use wheelchairs.

After the recent blizzard, a person in a wheelchair near downtown in southeast Rochester struggled with snow at a sidewalk intersection. An apparent stranger tried to help. Both were edging from the sidewalk toward the street. I feared calamity. But they must have made it.

Separately, in northwest Rochester, two young mothers pushed baby carriages. They crossed the road and came upon a snow-plugged sidewalk entrance. Their choice was to retreat — or push their babies into the street, endangering four lives. 

I'm reminded of driving with my dad several years ago to Lake Superior on our way home to northeast Iowa from Ely, Minn .


We had spent a week at Fall Lake's accessible Veterans on the Lake campground during a "Castaway Disabilities" event hosted by Iowa City  VA Medical Center staff.

Our search for a view of Lake Superior seemed destined to become a wild goose chase. But Dad said, "let's go a little further."

When we finally arrived at a beautiful vista, we unloaded from my parents' van and were surprised. Chilled air from the lake produced cave-like temperatures on that warm summer day as we moved closer to the edge of the bluff.

A nice blacktop path led from the parking area to a soothing view of the lake. But a small-diameter pipe under the sidewalk created a bump perhaps an inch high.

My dad's heavy, battery-powered wheelchair simply would not go over the bump. We were so close, yet so far. I unhinged his safety mechanism and put the chair on "manual." Then I pushed, pulled, lifted and pried until his front wheels made it over the bump. Then, we reconnected his power-drive and made a run for it — with Dad powering, and me pushing from behind to move ahead.

So when you consider whether to shovel this winter — and to shovel well — please remember the one-inch "bump in the road" my Dad and I faced.

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