Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Looking Glass

I was nearing the entrance to get on the highway when I saw her. I did a double take at first, since there’s normally no one walking in this area. I don’t come this way often, but when I do, I have never seen anyone walking. She had a boy in a wheelchair, who looked to be about twelve or so. He was tall and thin, his long slim legs coming together at the knees and then going out at the feet like an isoseles triangle. I tried to get a good look at him, but he was still a distance away, while I was stopped at the red light. The boy looked to have cerebral palsy. It was weird I thought, that I could almost guess his diagnosis, from this distance. He had on jeans and a spring jacket, much the way I would dress Dear Son, on a day like today. You had to always think ahead, when you’d take them out, to make sure they were dressed warm enough, since they don’t move while you are walking them, and that I will always be warmer, because I am the one getting the exercise. They were stopped at the light, on the opposite side of this rather larger intersection. When the light changed, she began walking him across the street, in his large wheelchair. The boy smiled and became pretty excited, that they were moving of course. Many times, he lifted his feet off of the foot rests and waved his arms uncontrollably, in his excitement. I couldn’t help but think, he reminded me an awful lot of Dear Son, only Dear Son looked healthier, if that were an option.

The woman looked surprisingly like me, in a way. It was not only her clothes but her hairstyle and her mannerisms. I watched her closely as if to see what impression I might give people as I walk with Dear Son as I normally do. She walked a little bent over, because the wheelchair handles sit low, causing you to bend over to get enough leverage to push them. It’s easier of course, when I attach the tall handlebars to Dear Son’s wheelchair, because it eliminates this problem and then my back doesn’t hurt so much. It was a bizarre sight seeing this woman, on the one hand it looked like I was looking at a mirror image of myself and on the other hand, it was like I was on the outside, peering in, seeing my life, or her life as it may be, from the outside in. She crossed the street with her boy and then proceeded to wait for the next light so she could walk north, approaching me. I was in the far right lane heading south, and she was a good six lanes over, but still, I kept watching her as if I were watching myself.

From a distance, she had that tired look on her face. Her smile lines were non-existant and the lines on her mouth pointed down. She looked down as she walked, partly because of the lifestyle I am sure, and partly to keep an eye on her son’s feet, that dangerously dangled below the footrests as she walked across the busy intersection. She looked up only to see the lights and to make certain it was safe for her Dear Son. That much I could tell. I couldn’t stop staring at her. It was like looking at my past, present and future all rolled into one. She did look tired though. I don’t know that I look tired, but I certainly feel tired sometimes. This life will wear on you after a while. I always say it’s the lifestyle that depresses you and never the life. I tried to get a glimpse of her face but I couldn’t make it out with all of the cars passing by. Finally, she approached the end of the crosswalk. I was stunned to see that she was much older than I originally thought. She wasn’t wearing any make up and she was far beyond the age that that would be a good decision. I wondered to myself how much this lifestyle ages you, always taking care of someone and never having much time to care for yourself. I imagined that she might be much younger than she looked, kind of like the people they get for that show, “Ten Years Younger” where they bring on a person and put them in a soundproof booth and have them guess their “real” age, then do a real makeover and repeat the same scenario, to see if they were able to get them to appear, “ten years younger” to the public.

I continued to stare. Had she been closer, I wouldn’t have been able to do this without seeming rude and yet I was just fascinated. I was trying to figure out if she was the mother or the grandmother of the boy. Not that it mattered of course, but I was curious. Did the lifestyle age her that much? More importantly, does or did the lifestyle age me that much? That was the bigger question and the answer that I really wanted. The boy was happy though, much like Dear Son. It was amazing how much information I could gather about the boy. He was well cared for, I could tell and having a ball. That would make her happy too; I just knew it. Our lives were more similar than different I decided. The light turned green and I stepped on the gas. Anxious to move on.


Dreaming again said...


Wrkinprogress said...

You said: "I always say it’s the lifestyle that depresses you and never the life." That has to be one of the most beautiful statements I've ever heard. Thank you for sharing this thought with us all. I will be pondering it today, and being even more grateful than usual that you are in my life. :)

Much love,

Anonymous said...

Dear DM, I notice that your last two posts are gone...they were excellent, as are all of your posts. Being a medical person, I was especially interested. Just curious. God Bless...

dki617 said...

What a great entry!

Seeing yourself from the outside and the inside at the same time. Very cool.

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