For the last 52 years, since becoming suddenly crippled at age 38, my mother has had to stay back and wait while the rest of the family went on hikes and camping trips and other adventures she simply was not up to. We took her as many places as we could, but it wasn’t easy.
For the last 36 hours since I broke my foot, Mark has played the role that my dad, my siblings, and I have played for my mother all those years. He has gently lifted me in and out of cars, carried all of our luggage, and helped me accomplish little things in the most inconvenient ways, lovingly, with kisses and smiles.
We won’t be hiking in and around the Grand Canyon after all, but we will enjoy a cozy night on the south rim. My view from crutches and wheelchair has been enlightening. Humbling. Convicting. I more quickly notice others who are struggling, and they more quickly notice me. We connect and for brief moments exchange knowing looks. I have conversations I would not otherwise have had and meet people I would not otherwise have met because we use the same entrance or are pushed along to the same table or are rolling past each other at the same eye level.
If and when I make it back to the Grand Canyon and am able to once again use both feet for walking, I will think of them. I will think of my mother. And I will see all of it through different eyes. I will be more helpful and more loving. I will be more thankful for kind strangers and more willing to be one. I will run across hotel lobbies and parking lots to open doors. I’ll make conversation rather than pitying small talk. I’ll embrace rather than tolerate. And if the tables are ever turned, I will give Mark the same loving, tender care he is giving me. Just as we promised 25 years ago, we will carry each other.
August 7, 2016