By Rich O’Neill PhD
I wheeled my mother into her doc’s waiting room, and a guy in line at the desk asked me how old she was. I told him 94.
“You are so blessed,” came his reply.
I’m not sure ‘blessed’ is the right word. And I’m not sure if the man changed his opinion a few minutes later when my mother said, loud enough for everybody to hear, “Look at that guy, Ritchie. He’s really bald!”
Let me tell you a little more about how it really is.
A few weeks ago she had a sore toe. So, she made a 4-inch cut in her special orthopedic shoe — with a can opener. We had taken scissors away after she used them to jam the door closed from the inside of her room at the nursing home to keep people from stealing her stuff while she slept. She had a bad cold at the time, and was confused. The staff at the home had to break the door down to get in.
My mother doesn’t tolerate change, so I wanted to get the same shoe. But she can’t remember her shoe size, and getting her to the shoe store — or anywhere — can be a major undertaking at best and close to impossible if she decides to clamp her eyes shut and go limp and unresponsive like she’s dead so that I have to pick her up and put her in a wheelchair and move backward because she’ll put her feet on the ground to stop us if we go forward.
Why does she do this?
Anyway, the place we’d gotten the shoes no longer carried them, but the store did record her size. So I went online. Nobody carried them any more, so I got a very, very similar pair in the exact same size and color. I brought them to her when they arrived.
As she prepared to try them on, she pulled her special toeless support socks down over her toes so that the shoes definitely wouldn’t fit. I fixed the socks. Then I reached to get the shoes out of the box. She pulled the socks down again. Then she noticed a detail in the new shoes.
Eventually we got the shoes on her feet, and when she walked around the room, she said an emphatic “Too small!” Who knows if they really were.
She wanted me to sew up her old shoe until we could get a bigger size.
So an hour into my visit, I was sewing her old shoe, biting the thread because there were no scissors. The whole time, she insisted somebody stole her sewing box, even though I showed it to her when I got the needle and thread.
Why am I telling you this?
Because a few days later at a party, I was talking to someone about our mutually aging parents. “Boy! You’ve got a lot on your hands,” he said, and I almost started crying. It feels good when someone understands our experience.
So all of you folks with a similar story, I just want to say, if ‘blessed’ is the right word, I’m not looking forward to heaven as much as I used to. Know what I mean?