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She says that's how people describe her when they call the police.
She's out there on her Permobil M300, hugging the curb through rain, snow and dark. On the past winter's cold nights, you'd swear the heavy-duty wheelchair was being driven by a heap of coats and blankets because that's all you could see piled on the seat.
But look deep into the quilted lair, beneath the mounted umbrella, and back in there is the round face of
Good grief, why is she out there? It's dark, it's raining, cars zipping past. Why isn't she at least on the sidewalk? This sweet old great-grandmother is gonna get plowed.
Somebody should say something.
"Yeah, well," Aviel said kindly when flagged to the curb, "I don't mean to be a smart a(ASTERISK)(ASTERISK), but have you ever ridden one of these things?"
Sidewalk street crossings are bumpy, she explains. Hurts her back, which is already broken, which is why she's in the wheelchair in the first place. She'll take the street pavement even if, as she says, she has come close to scraping paint with cars and trucks. She points out, too, her power chair is
This is a woman who has chosen not to go gently into the night. She just goes. And that's what the wheelchair is for. She's not all that old, 70, but health issues mean she will never walk again. The chair keeps her out in the world. It is her vehicle to independence, to a life fulfilled.
She travels to libraries, downtown, temple in
Now, she's just another spring grad looking for a job. Only her end game is not to start a career, but to get a weekly paycheck so she can get out of her assisted-living facility.
"I'm not cut out to live with 28 old people sitting in their rooms watching paint dry," she said. "I want a job, to be on my own. I want my own piece of the earth.
"I want to set up my books on my bookshelf. My hardback books. And this scooter elevates me so I can reach the ones on the top shelf."
She knows she draws stares when she rolls down a street. Her Permobil, with all its hangings - bags, provisions, stuffed toys and ornaments - looks like a scooter version of
Because Aviel has places to go. She's matriarch of a family haunted by demons. She, too, is their connection to faith.
"I need to teach the young ones," she said.
"She's sort of like a fine wine, keeps getting better," he said. "She's very creative, very ambitious. She perseveres through her disability and just keeps going.
"And she is very much the spiritual core of her family."
Her scooter also gets her to The Daily Limit, a bar up the street at
"I'm one of their groupies," Aviel said. "I'm out on that dance floor and I've wiggled so hard in this scooter I've probably shaken a few screws loose."
'She wants to be there for us'
A son, a daughter, seven grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and another on the way and nobody dares tell Great-Grandmother Leah (that's what her business card says) to stay off the streets at night on her scooter.
Why not just stay in and play bingo and do crafts with the other residents at Waterford South, the residential facility where she lives?
"Wouldn't do any good," said son
When told she was cruising Holmes a recent night with
He and other family members say Aviel is like a free-willed, old hippie chick who refuses to stay on the disabled list. Tell her she can't and she'll show you she can.
"Stubborn is probably the word," grandson
"She doesn't think she needs managed, and she'll sure let you know it.
"And she wants to be there for us. I got away from church for a while. She brought me back."
Some members of the family have wrestled with substance-abuse issues. Aviel herself had a rough beginning in life.
She said her father was an alcoholic. The more he drank, the more her mother prayed, and the more she prayed, the more he drank.
Her mother scrubbed floors. A younger sister died when she was hit by a car.
"And that was my childhood," she said.
As an adult, Aviel worked as a surgical tech in hospitals. She married a few times, and moved often.
But a few years back when she broke her back in a fall in an operating room, she returned to
"You stand with those groups even if you stand alone," she said. "Do so with a willing heart and God's blessings will come to you.
"Being in a wheelchair, I'm not asking to be put at the front of the line. I just want to be on the list."
(EDITORS: STORY CAN END HERE)
The rains had passed a recent morning, the sun shone bright and here came Aviel, shining even brighter.
Rings on every finger and bracelets lining both forearms caught the early light. She smiled as she approached the bus stop on
Or as she calls it, her workstation.
She was headed downtown to the
"I've been waiting for this day," she said.
She knows she will always need help doing certain things. But she wants to find out exactly how independent she can be.
She wants that for herself. And for the grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
"I refuse to be the cranky, old lady in the picture," she said.
A few minutes later, she was on the
This day was everything.
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