Perspective

After a doctor’s appointment last week, Mom and I stopped at a CVS drugstore to pick up a few things. When she’s not feeling tired, she enjoys getting out and doing things – even if it’s just browsing a drugstore for ten minutes.

As I got out of the car, a middle-aged woman approached me, asking if I could spare any change. I brushed her off, saying “Not now but maybe when we come out.” She continued talking to me, explaining that she hates asking for money but she and her husband are both out of work and currently living in her mother-in-law’s garage – and when she saw me lifting the walker out of my trunk, she eagerly offered to help. “I’ve got it,” I said, “but thank you.” The woman explained that she wants to work and would be happy to do anything – wash windows, clean houses, walk dogs, yard work.

I wasn’t sure how Mom would react to her, having spent most of her life in smaller communities where this sort of situation is uncommon. I can still vividly recall her reaction to an older woman sitting in a motorized wheelchair by the side of a freeway off ramp a few months ago. “Why would they just leave her there?” she burst out. “That’s a terrible place to leave someone!” I quickly explained that I thought the woman had probably chosen to sit there to ask for money, though glancing in the rearview mirror I didn’t see her holding a sign… and she wasn’t close enough to the road to take money being handed from a car window without getting out of the chair…

Anyway, we went in to the drugstore and I picked up the few things we needed and let Mom buy a bottle of Tums that she didn’t need because they were on sale. We picked out some cookies for her to take home, too, since we’re still trying to keep her from losing any more weight. I rang up our purchases with my debit card and got $10 cash back.

As we left the store, I discreetly passed the ten to the woman who had asked for help. She glanced at the bill in her hand and burst out “Oh, thank you so much! I could hug you!” – adding quickly “But I won’t. I know most people don’t want to be touched by strangers.”

“You can hug me,” Mom said immediately, turning with a smile.

I nodded and smiled my assent. “She’s a hugger.”

The woman hugged my mom gingerly around the shoulders, as if she might break. And she kept smiling and waving to us as we pulled out of the parking lot.

I drove away thinking how very fortunate Mom and I both are, despite the increased burdens of her care costs over the last year. I’ve been frustrated lately with all the costs for my own health care and Mom’s medications and incidentals (Ensure, incontinence products, haircuts, etc.) that just keep adding to my credit card debt because there’s not sufficient monthly income to cover it all. But I have a job and I have credit cards, and neither of us needs to go without. And Mom’s monthly income is enough to cover her base level of care at a wonderful home, where she is happy and engaged. And that, to me, is priceless.

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