Courage in a Wheelchair

    “Courage in a Wheelchair,” Ensign, Jan. 1975, 55–56

    Courage in a Wheelchair

    She was 29 years old, mother of five daughters, and a victim of multiple sclerosis, an incurable degenerative disease of the nervous system.

    Sister Bobbie McKean Giauque (pronounced “Juke”) of Salt Lake City thus faced a personal crisis that would overwhelm most people. Instead, after sobbing uncontrollably just once in the hospital, then thinking deeply about her options, she decided that there was really only one choice: to use the experience as a means of growth for her and her family. Now, nine years later, she states, “I am a better person because of my handicap, and so are all the members of our family. In spite of my wheelchair, I still have my responsibilities.”

    Her husband, Don, widened the doors and hallways in her home so that she could maneuver more easily in her wheelchair, and her daughters participated fully in the necessary reorganization to keep the family self-sufficient.

    “Not being able to wait on my daughters is the best thing that could have ever happened to them,” Sister Giauque comments. One daughter mentioned with astonishment that a friend of hers drew a blank when asked to cut a tomato for a salad—she’d never done it before. Another daughter learned how to make her own dresses.

    But this kind of competence was not achieved without some important learning experiences. For instance, there was the night the girls carefully baked a covered dish in the oven for two hours, only to find that it was a refrigerator dessert. And the time that Kimberli washed her blue jeans without checking the pockets, thus dissolving a photograph of her boyfriend.

    How do they handle the household routine? Saturday’s chores are divided into unequal fifths, with the oldest getting the heaviest responsibilities. And all work must be done before play.

    Everyone fixes her own breakfast, cleans up after herself, makes her bed, and straightens her room before leaving for school. The two older girls each cook dinner twice a week, the three younger girls each cook one night a week. They plan menus for a week and shop on Saturday. After a girl tries a new recipe, the family votes on whether or not to keep it. If yes, the card is added to the recipe file. If no, she tears up the card. “It’s really quite a ceremony,” they say.

    Family projects have included making crib-sized quilts for all the girls, painting individual wooden pictures, sanding and antiquing the frames, painting wall murals in their rooms, and repairing antique furniture.

    Even though she is cheerful and busy, Sister Giauque occasionally feels the inevitable depression of not being able to do all she wants to do. Her daughter, Laurie, once discovered her with tears in her eyes, demanded an explanation, and then set her straight. “Mom,” she said, “don’t you realize that if you do nothing but just listen to us, you’re being the best mother ever? If you weren’t sick, you’d be flitting here and flitting there and wouldn’t be taking the time with us that you do now. You guide us with your suggestions and then we go from there. We’re learning so much, and we’ll be wonderful wives and mothers.”

    Sister Giauque comments happily, “Laurie made me feel wonderful. What she was saying was true. They’re being trained in the best possible way, and I hadn’t even planned it that way. The girls know that I’m depending on them to make a success of my life as well as their own.”