Each step she takes, each movement she makes, is filled
with pain. She is slow. Unsteady on her feet. Walks with a
walker around the house. Sometimes just taking a bath leaves
her exhausted and she needs to rest before moving on. I wish
she were better at asking for help. But I know it is hard.
When someone needs help with so much, it is hard to keep
asking. She chooses her moments carefully. Usually it’s when
my husband or I get up from the couch to get something from
the kitchen. “On your way back,” she might say, “can you
bring me a glass of water?” I feel like such a heel
wondering how long she’s been thirsty.
At other times, when I take over for her, fill up the
bathtub or button her shirt fo her, I wonder if I’ve just
robbed her of something. Some nugget of dignity or self
respect. Have I stepped in too soon? Did I just deprive her
of the opportunity to learn some sacred lesson? The lesson
of patience, perhaps, or of learning to ask for and receive
help? Ironically, I find myself in the same predicament
everyday as a parent. Teetering as I try to find the
delicate balance of doing something for my son, or letting
him do it himself. Most days I have no idea what I’m doing
and I just have to go for a walk or take a bath and start
again in the morning.
On another day we’re at the local super-center. Madoc is
in the front of the basket I’m pushing. My mother is
following behind in a motorized cart. It’s a very slow
process, shopping. We’re looking for shoes and clothes my
mother can put on and take off by herself.
I do most of the cooking and we eat a lot more organic
produce and fewer microwave dinners than she is used to. In
fact, she has slimmed down so much in the two years that
we’ve lived together that she looks like a little girl
playing dress-up most of the time. Any clothes that do still
fit, don’t work anymore for one reason or another: too many
buttons, zipper in the back, drawstring that requires tying.
Basically, I realize as we’re inching down the aisle toward
the women’s clothing, we’re shopping for the same type of
clothes I buy for my toddler. Clothes that are easily put on
and taken off by fingers that don’t have a lot of motor
control or strength. Clothes that build self-confidence and
Days like this require a sort of walking meditation: help
my mother try things on, get Madoc a snack, go visit the
goldfish in the pet section, breathe, then back to women’s
clothing to check on Mom, go through the grocery list, then
to the checkout counter to pay the cashier, push the debit
button, pick up the pen my son has just flung to the floor
for the third time, breathe, go get the car, strap my son in
his car seat, bring the car around to the store entrance,
help my mother into the car, return the motorized cart,
notice that my car is still leaking oil and is now smoking.
(I had hoped that problem had solved itself last week, but
apparently, it’s still there.) Breathe. The journey of a
thousand miles must begin with a single step. No one ever
mentions the fact that the journey could be as simple as a
trip to the local super-center.