I looked in the room and there he was. Sitting up slumped forward in his wheelchair, a slight temporal wasting to his brow. I knocked. His head raised and he seemed happy to see me. His arthritic joints reached the arms of the wheelchair to adjust his posture.
“How was your day?” he asked, smiling.
“Fine. How about you?”
“I’m tired, but these folks are wonderful. They seem to have a real purpose up here on rehab – they really seem to have the common goal of getting you ready to go home.”
Then I spied a tiny gold trophy cup on his bedside table. On the outside it said: “Turkey Bowling Champion – First Place”
“Oh, it’s nothing,” he chuckled, somewhat embarrassed by the trophy. “It really was pretty funny.”
“Well, I was asked if I wanted to turkey bowl with some others on the ward. Now I had no idea what the heck this was, but it the staff here were really talking it up. Anyway, the next thing I knew, there I was with three other ladies, all older than me, each in our wheelchairs. What a pitiful site!
They came over and handed me a four-pound frozen turkey with a little handle on it. On the other side of the room they had arranged some bowling pins. Each of us got a chance to try to knock those damn pins down. None of us could walk, but we just swung our arms back and forth, back and forth, and then let ‘er go. I had those pins right in my site, but the damn turkey doesn't roll very true, you know…
Well the ladies, they were winning at first…”
“How many frames did you play?”
“Oh, about six or seven. Those nice kids would run down and set up the pins after we’d chuck that thing toward them. It took me a while to get used to it.”
“So what happened?”
“Damn if I didn’t get a strike in the last frame! I won, but It was all random you know. The way that thing rolls any one of us could have won. If you had told me that I would be sitting here turkey bowling three weeks ago, I never would have believed it.”
I wouldn't have believed it either.
I now have a newfound respect and appreciation for physical therapists and occupational therapists. Relearning the little things, like standing safely, controlled breathing as you walk, planning ambulation strategies - it's all new to someone bedridden for a month. Words of encouragement, a helpful hand, and gentle coaxing, with a little "turkey bowling" thrown in, are sure to help anyone get moving again - it is a special gift, indeed.
Now I can’t wait for the rest of the family to arrive at Thanksgiving so we can practice for the next match...