Another cold, gray January day in Wisconsin.
What better excuse to escape for a few hours than going to see a movie? And what better movie to lift one’s spirits than “Mary Poppins Returns”? That is where you might have seen me last weekend, hunched over the back of my mom’s wheelchair in the movie theater parking lot, as we battled the ridiculous gusts of wind that seemed to appear every time we reached a curb. My dad, having recently had hip replacement surgery, hobbled behind us, trying to remain upright and warm while using his walker.
We got into the theater – late, of course. My dad says, “Well, that’s not a big deal, because they will just be showing previews”, which was in fact correct. But when a movie house is showing previews, it has to turn down the lights. Way down. I am not adept at this stuff. Pushing my mom up the ramp, attempting to find our seats in the dark, putting the wheelchair brakes on, deciding she is not close enough, taking the brakes off, moving the wheelchair slightly, putting the brakes back on, figuring out how to move the foot rests aside. And of course, one always falls off. Grabbing Mom under the armpits, and attempting to swivel her body into the seat which is pretty much invisible to me, and absolutely invisible to her. We’re halfway down and it is determined that she needs to take her jacket off first. My purse keeps slipping down my arm. I discard it. In fact, I fling it down, along with my jacket, hat, and mittens, because honestly, who turned up the heat in here? The pile on the floor grows as I add my mother’s winter gear. I pivot my mom with a command to “Sit!”, and she plops awkwardly into the seat. I stand, somewhat in a state of shock, and then turn around to move the wheelchair, the jackets, the gloves, hats, mittens, purses, and then the tissues, lipsticks, and meds which are tumbling out of her purse. I shove them to the side of the aisle, praying that no one will trip over them. I am sweating too hard to care.
Right away Mom needs her tissues. Her water bottle. Her lip balm. And I realize I forgot to use the restroom before we left. I sprint off, and upon my return, find my Dad has landed in his chair, having added his gear to the winter pile over on the side. The previews are still playing.
I plop down in the seat between my Mom and a smiling woman who already has her seat reclined, her soda in the arm rest and popcorn in her lap. She leans over and says, “That was me ten years ago… you’re doing a really good job.”
And I swear to God I almost burst into tears. Because this is so much work, and I get so hot and bothered and crabby. But I am doing a good job…mostly.
Which is my way of saying that saying something to someone who is clearly struggling and who clearly looks like she might freak out any minute is just the kindest thing a person can do.
Words of acknowledgement, “I’ve been there”, words of encouragement, “You’re doing a really good job”, and words of love are indeed the sugar that helps the medicine go down.