'I know as long as my legs are still strong enough to walk, Jan and I will still have those long walks in the woods,' the doting husband said.
The moment Rick Dorothy first met his wife, Jan, 15 years ago, he knew that there was some kind of a connection between them. "It was one of those times when something just clicks," he told Love What Matters. "However, she was married and so was I. I told myself that my attraction was just a fantasy that I should just get out of my mind. Turned out that both of our spouses didn’t follow that same rule, and over time we both became single." Newly divorced, Rick and Jan found comfort and companionship in each other. Before long, the pair fell in love, got married and became parents to their two children.
Unfortunately, when everything seemed to be going great for their family, Rick lost his job of 18 years. "Jan had just quit her job to be a full-time mom and was 8 months pregnant. We had many late-night talks on what to do, and how to do it. We would take long walks to talk about our unsure future. We decided to sell our house, build another and start a wood business," he recalled. "She was my left hand for the next few years. We built together, cut wood together, and made money together. Everything seemed to be coming true, and our life was happy and productive. Life was good to us."
When Rick's mother moved in with them after falling ill, Jan took great care of her through the good and bad days. "It ended up being a difficult situation for all of us," said Rick. "We started making our long walks an everyday thing. It gave us time to reflect on things and plan each day."
It was during one of their daily walks that he noticed Jan dragging her right foot. Although they initially dismissed it as the result of her being a little out of shape, their efforts to make her legs stronger proved futile. "As time went by her foot drag got worse," Rick recalled. "Not long after, Jan was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis."
"As we did our research, the future seemed grimmer and grimmer," Rick said. "Jan till this day has never cried once, and has never complained, or felt sorry for herself. I wish I could say the same for myself. But I made up my mind that I would do everything in my power to make her life as normal as possible [in any way I could. We made up our minds to not let it take away the life we loved."
However, over time, the illness damaged her nerves to the point where she could no longer take the long walks in the woods they cherished so much. "MS can be a sneaky demon and has its way of stealing a small piece of you each day," the doting husband noted. "Despite everything we did, the monster continued to slowly damage her nerves and take its toll."
Rick—who describes himself as "kind of an inventor"—racked his brain for solutions that could help Jan resume her daily walks with him. "One day, watching television, I saw a Chinese Rickshaw on an old show. A switch flipped in my head, and I knew my new mission. With my name being Rick, it just made sense," he said. Although his family initially had reservations about Rick's plan to build a rickshaw to pull Jan around in, he was determined to make it work.
"When it was finally complete and ready for the maiden voyage, I felt like I was asking her to get into a homemade airplane. She stepped into it and sat down. 'Hey, this is pretty comfortable,' she said with a smile. As I picked up the front and tipped her back in her chair, her eyes grew bigger. 'It won't tip over backward?' she asked. And away we went, down the long driveway, and on down the road. 'This is kinda cool,' she announced with a little grin. 'How is it for you?' It didn't matter how it was for me, I would have broken both legs to take her on that first ride," he said.
"It is custom built for her weight and size but is adjustable if needed. It weighs 35 pounds and quickly breaks down to fit in our Subaru Outback. Pulling her is nearly effortless even up small hills and we can be on and off the trails in minutes. It has a suspension system to provide a smooth comfy ride. I recycled the wheels which had been on a land sailer, a stroke rehabilitator, and my kids' fun cart when they were little. As long as I am able to walk, we will continue to have our long walks in the woods together," Rick wrote on Facebook.
Sharing some words of advice for people who've been thrown unwelcome curveballs by life, he urged: "Take life one day at a time, and when life throws a brick wall in front of you, just build a ladder and cross the wall. I know as long as my legs are still strong enough to walk, Jan and I will still have those long walks in the woods. Where there is a will, there is always a way, and we will continue to find our way as long as we can."