Kleptomania



Whenever my wife and I go out to eat, we tend to like restaurants that have cocktail height tables and sufficient light to see the menu with. We like the former so my wife can sit next to me and help me eat without having to constantly stand and sit. We like the latter because we're getting old, and I draw comfort from being able to see that it is my wife who is feeding me and not some stranger. Not every restaurant can accommodate these two desires however, so we try to put the odds on our side. We now carry a miniature flashlight with us wherever we go.

Most of the time we dine in restaurants that have white paper napkins, which my wife likes to lay over me the way a dental technician drapes a lead blanket prior to taking x-rays. Even in a dark restaurant, the white napkin is clearly visible, so we generally remember to remove it before leaving the restaurant. If we don't however, its light weight makes sure it blows away as soon as we get outside, thereby contributing to the ambience of the neighborhood. It's the dark, linen napkins that get us in trouble.

It started innocently enough. On one special occasion, my wife and I decided to visit a restaurant that was of a higher class than those we generally frequent. Instead of thin, white paper napkins, this establishment featured black linen napkins. After a few minutes, I asked Sue to cover me with my black blanket because they had the air conditioner turned down to the polar cap recovery setting. My fuzzy black, warm traveling companion is another acquiescence to age, although I'm sure the kink in my spinal cord also has something to do with that. The dark surroundings coupled with the black linen napkins however provided the perfect backdrop to what was about to become a crime spree.

When we arrived home that evening we discovered the black linen napkin folded neatly on top of the black blanket, which still covered me. We laughed at how we had so neatly made off with the restaurants property, and we jokingly referred to it as the great napkin caper. Until it happened again. At that point I began to worry a bit about our memories, especially after we arrived at home one evening with a white linen napkin. I even dreamed one night that we were refused service at one restaurant because we could not be "entrusted with restaurant property." I was not prepared however for what was to come next.

My wife and I have always celebrated our wedding anniversary with a visit to a local fine dining establishment. In the years BC, (before children) we would take turns choosing the favored restaurant, and during our years in Chicago we ended up dining at a number of the city’s most well-known establishments. The only disruption to that tradition came one summer a few years ago when my handicapped van decided to go topless, but that is a story for another day. For our most recent anniversary, we once again decided to visit one of Dallas's best-known restaurants, which shall remain nameless because of the crime committed there.


As expected, this restaurant featured dark, linen napkins, heavy, fine silverware and a near pitch black environment. We were in the midst of enjoying our entrée when my wife accidentally dropped my fork. She briefly looked for it on the floor, but being a fine establishment we thought it improper to search for it on our hands and knees. We figured the restaurant would find the utensil after we left, so she deftly removed a fork from a neighboring table after making sure no waiters were looking. We continued to enjoy our delicious dinner. At some point however I became chilled and wanted to be covered with a blanket. We continued through dessert and coffee and left the restaurant feeling warmly satiated from the fine food, wine and each other's company.

When we arrived home my wife took the blanket off me and we laughed once again as we discovered yet another napkin added to our collection. The feeling of mirth quickly evaporated however when we discovered the lost fork resting on the footplate of my wheelchair. I felt disturbed after the thought ran through my mind that we only needed a few more utensils to complete a set for home dining use. I visualized standing in front of a somber group at Thieves Anonymous saying, "My name is Joe, and I am a kleptomaniac."

Since that time there have been no more such incidents, although it has been less than a week since our anniversary. I realize now that every recovery comes one day at a time, and so I will wake up tomorrow, God willing, and pledge to try and not think again of what a matched set would look like!

Slice of Life series articles are those that share the special experiences of those living in a wheelchair in a way that is witty, informational, poignant and even inspirational. Do you have a story? Share it with us at info@unitedspinalusa.org

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