That’s not what you want to hear when you turn to back up the Yukon. Six pairs of curious eyes under the age of 7 looked back at me from the back seats. (Well, five; the baby faces backward.) “What was that?” my six year old asked innocently.
I ran through the possibilities. Human? No. They were all accounted for, thank God, and the parking lot was mostly empty. Ice? The tar was covered in it; a chunk could have dislodged from under the fender… But it sounded bigger. The options narrowed. Heart beating faster, I hopped out of the huge vehicle and slipped around the back. Shoot, I guessed right.
It was Ben’s empty wheelchair.
It was turned sideways, stuck under the back fender. I pulled on it hopefully. It didn’t budge. Apparently in the bustle of getting everyone buckled and sedated with bubble gum and keeping their fingers out of each others’ ears and hollering over the hungry baby and another mom helping empathetically to calm the masses while I strapped in the grumpy three year old who knew his suppertime was already late, my system of checks and balances got thrown off. The wheelchair had been pushed around to the back, probably by a helpful child, after I’d pulled Ben out of it to get into his carseat. In the hubbub, I didn’t notice I hadn’t packed it into the trunk, and unfortunately ran around the front of the vehicle rather than the back.
Hopping back up behind the big steering wheel again, I inched forward. It slid along with me on the ice underneath. A couple other dads leaving wrestling practice with their sons stopped and sympathetically tried to help. We rocked the vehicle back and forth. It only wedged under farther. Finally, one dad wrenched the chair free while the other drove my huge truck onto the patio area in front of the parking space. The wheelchair was a mangled, muddy mess. Wheels bent, brake broken off, parts of the frame dented, it didn’t look promising. We scooped up the pieces and put it somberly into the trunk.
“I broke your chair,” I climbed back into the driver’s seat and looked back at my son solemnly. “I’m sorry.”
He took it well. “Can I get a new one? Can it be red?” (The glass is always half full when you’re three.)
“I…don’t know, Ben.” I drove in silence, eyes on the road. I didn’t know what lay ahead.
That was over three weeks ago. What’s left of the chair is sitting in a box in the back warehouse of the medical retailer where we got it. The good news is the cushion is still good.
The bad news? Let’s just say, looking from this side, I wish I could tell that chicken not to cross the road.
Because insurance doesn’t like to cover stupid.
In the last few weeks, I’ve whined and fought and flailed against the insurance companies (not literally, though I would if it wouldn’t put me in worse trouble) in my head, for creating this agonizing process. It seems that every necessary authority between us and a new chair revels in denial and rejection. And paperwork. Meanwhile, my son pulls himself across dirty cold floors on his hands, dragging his feet like so much baggage.
And I know it was my fault for squashing his wheels, which makes me feel rotten enough. But as the process of trying to get a new one approved drags out endless, my frustration mounts. I’d buy him one, but sleek little ergo toddler wheelchairs don’t come cheap. And they don’t sell them at the local Walmart (though they probably would let me buy one of those one-size-fits all vinyl numbers with the hip-dislocating sling seats and the crooked footrests that park so conveniently inside the doorways of every big box store as an apology for making you walk a mile across their parking lots). So I wait. But not well. Mostly I complain and shake my fist and cry, “No fair!”
“No?” the quiet response filters though my consciousness. “You’ve decided this is too much?” The gentle but firm hand of God rests on my shoulder as I grumble in the kitchen. “You have decided I am unfair?”
I’d answer, but my mouth has suddenly gone dry. I want to argue – no, I mean “they” out there – the elusive faceless voices of the institutions that seem to dictate what my son needs. “They” are not fair. But I can’t seem to point my fingers while His warm hand weighs on my arm.
“On the 573rd consecutive day of too little sleep, when the oatmeal boiled over, and the four year old decorated the toilet with smurf stickers, and you had to choose whether to pay the mortgage or buy groceries, you came to the end of your rope, and you handed it to Me. And I carried you through it. Remember?”
I don’t answer.
“And the day the boys had a wrestling match on the clean laundry piled on your bed and a feather pillow got ripped and it looked like it snowed and you had to show your house to prospective buyers within a few hours, and you cleaned like mad and then they didn’t show up and you got that killer headache, you turned to Me. And I brought you through it. Remember?”
The Hand stays on my arm as I sink down to the floor.
“And then the three year old covered himself in chocolate and you couldn’t bathe him because he had a cast on his foot which you should have taken off anyway because it left a pressure sore on his heel. Remember?”
“And the six year old wrote his spelling words backwards and the seven year old forgot how to carry the one when he added even though he’d known how for months and the four year old pulled out all the red and blue markers and switched their caps and the toddler had a overwhelming fascination with scotch tape and the baby forgot how to nap and you wondered what possessed you to consider homeschooling a viable option. Remember?”
I nod. These memories seem so trivial now.
“And then remember when your friend came to you because her husband left her? Remember when sat with your other friend in the hospital while she watched her child die? Remember when another friend found out she was pregnant again and learned her husband would be in jail when her child was born? And remember, not so long ago, when your own son had brain surgery and you laid his lifeless form on the operating table? Do you remember trusting him to the hands of strangers and walking away?”
I feel His eyes on me. These memories burn brighter. Starker. Still I study the floor as He speaks, gently. Firmly.
“Child, was I unfair? Will not the Judge of all the earth do right? I own the cattle on a thousand hills and the mouse who’s living in your attic right now. I make nations rise and fall. I make your heart beat, and I hold the earth on its axis. I don’t ask you to do hard things because I need them. I ask you to do hard things because you need them. This world is not your home. This is simply the preparation ground for the real thing. Don’t point your finger at paper-happy corporations, or the government, or bad people, as if you are entitled to something they’ve got. I have called you on this journey. Walk it.”
I look up sheepishly, but no one else notices mommy sitting on the linoleum in a sticky mess of humble pie. Or maybe that’s just maple syrup left from someone’s breakfast. Then, a moment later, Ben peeks around the corner. Brightening at discovering me, he pulls himself into the kitchen in a commando crawl. He notices his walker parked against the wall. “Walk me, Mom!” He commands. I blink. And obey.
Video of Ben walking
(Sorry it’s dark. But it’s real.)
“…We have [only] done what was our duty to do.” -Luke 17:10