We recently spent an overnight in SE Ohio as a mini getaway. We took guided tours of two different museum settings and had two very different experiences related to being someone with a chronic illness. I started writing about this in the day-by-day post but realized it really deserves its own post to more fully explore what happened and how it made me feel.
First, both guides were retired men with an obvious love of history. Both were excellent story-tellers. I’m pretty certain that both were volunteers, doing this work because they love to share their own interests with others. My physical challenges of getting easily tired are not invisible. I have a big bald head right now, and I know I start looking exhausted as I get more and more tired. These two guides reacted in very different ways…
On Sunday afternoon, we stopped at the County History Museum in the tiny town of Beverley, OH. The oldest log cabin in Ohio is right beside a home that is stuffed to exploding with every imaginable paper, artifact, piece of furniture, and piece of history from the surrounding area. (There’s even a gravestone that was found in an area barn with a replacement already in the cemetery. But that’s a story for some other time…) We found it intriguing that many of the pieces of antique furniture we have owned over the years were in this museum! Apparently, we have very good taste…or at least similar taste to the common families of SE Ohio in the 1800s!
Guide A had a story about every item in the museum. (Yes, I really think he had THAT many stories he could have told us!) With every room packed with things, there were very few places to sit or even to lean against a wall as I got more and more tired of standing. At one point, hubby needed to check on our car. I made a bee-line for a modern chair and plopped down to rest. I commented something to the guide about being in the middle of chemo treatments and having no stamina left. He paused a moment, then went right on with whatever he was saying, as if I had said nothing at all. Throughout the rest of the tour, he seemed oblivious to my growing need to find places to sit and rest a bit. In many ways, this made me feel even worse than physically tired.
On Monday afternoon, we took a walking tour of the Lafeyette, a stern-wheel paddle boat which ran for many decades on the Ohio River hauling cargo between Pittsburgh and Marietta. Our guide, Captain B, was a retired ferry captain from Florida. I was still somewhat tired from a long day on Sunday so was quick to find a place to sit whenever possible. Fortunately, there were plenty of sturdy metal fittings and benches throughout the ship. I never mentioned cancer treatments or fatigue, but Capt. B quickly caught on to what I needed. As we entered each new room, he would point out a good seat for me and invite the others to sit as well. At one point, he made it clear that we needed to choose between climbing down a ladder or going back down the stairs we had used, then coming around a corner to join the others. I felt very supported. And when I wasn’t on high alert about guarding my strength, I could better pay attention to and enjoy the many stories that Capt. B had to share with all of us.
I don’t feel a need to write out a moral of the story. I recognize I am an extrovert and potentially what made me feel most welcomed would be upsetting for someone else. Obviously, sensitivity is needed in how we interact with others. I will always appreciate anyone who tries to make life a bit easier for those who have obvious challenges in life.