The wall

For years we lived in what’s supposed to be the living room of this apartment, because it's bigger than the bedroom, and has a better view. When Stephanie started having difficulty walking, though, we moved to the room at the end of the hall, because it’s closest to the bathroom and shower. The hallway ends, and the bedroom is to the left, the bathroom is to the right.

When Steph was unable to walk for her last several years, she got around in a wheelchair. A manual chair, of course — the electric ones are crazy expensive. It was a pretty great wheelchair, though — never gave us any mechanical problems, as Steph rolled through rain and snow and mud, sometimes on summer hikes, or on the sand at the beach. We went all over Wisconsin with Steph in that chair, because Steph never wanted to slow down, so we still ate at our favorite restaurants, occasionally visited her folks in Milwaukee, and we still had weekend adventures, definitely. Steph insisted.

Her most common trip in her wheelchair, though, was across the hall to the bathroom. That’s everyone's most common trip, but if you're walking it's easy. In a wheelchair, it takes some effort.

To get to the bathroom, Steph needed to use a slideboard (basically, a small wooden plank) to shimmy herself off the bed and into her wheelchair. Then she’d roll her chair into the hall, and since the bathroom is small and the toilet faces the hall, she’d need to turn her wheelchair around in the hallway, and roll in reverse into the bathroom. Using another slideboard we kept there, she’d shimmy herself from the wheelchair onto the toilet. When she’d finished her business, she’d slideboard-shimmy into the wheelchair again, wash her hands at the sink, and roll back across the hall and into bed. 

Every time she went to the bathroom, she needed to turn around in the hallway, and sometimes, her wheelchair’s wheel bumped the wall as she turned. It was a tiny bump, never a problem or worry. After years in the chair, though, making that twirl in the hallway thousands of times, we noticed a faint streak of gray on the wall, from where the wheels had bumped the wall so many times.

Steph was a far neater person than me, but she never washed the streak off the wall. “It is my intention,” she once said when I’d mentioned it, “to make that streak much blacker, by bumping the wall many thousands of times over many years.”

We laughed at that when she said it, and she did indeed make the streak darker. Not as black as we would’ve liked, of course, but it’s fairly thick, wouldn’t you say?

I’m hoping to live in this apartment until I follow Steph wherever she’s gone, and it’s my intent to never wash the wall.