Finding the Dance

magnolia

“Why are you trying to humiliate me?” My mother glared at me.

I pulled a wheelchair out from the stack under the stairs and pressed down on the two armrests to open it up. Then I hunted for a cushion. “I’ll go and buy you a decent cushion later,” I said. “These are pretty old and ropey.”

“I don’t need a cushion. I’m perfectly capable of walking on my own two legs.”

“There!” I pushed the cushion onto the seat. “Perfect!”

My mother turned her back on me and, leaning heavily on her walker, shuffled towards the door.

I suspected she wouldn’t get even halfway down the path from the seniors’ apartments to the street. I was shocked at how frail and wobbly she’d become since my last visit to England.

But the park was too far from the seniors’ apartments and to get there you had to pass over a narrow railway bridge where the sidewalk almost disappeared and trucks and cars thundered past at high speed, creating quite a wind. There was no hand rail. I knew my mother had always been frightened of the bridge, that she’d get blown into the road and under the cars.

“It’s just to get to the park. Once we’re there you can hop out and walk around all you like,” I said, struggling with the foot rests.

I folded her walker, tucked it under the stairs, then pushed the wheelchair up behind her.

“Just try it,” I begged. I was desperate to get outside and breathe some fresh spring air. I had arrived from Canada the evening before and had had to rush out for food and cleaning supplies and had spent all day cooking and cleaning. But how could I go out and just leave her sitting there?

Maneuvering the wheelchair through the door was not as easy as I’d imagined.

“Ouch! My foot!” said my mother.

“Quickly,” she hissed once we were finally out of the building. “Faster. They mustn’t see me.” She ducked down and I pushed the wheelchair as fast as I could down the cobbled pathway, aware of faces in the lounge to our left turning to watch, craning to see over the line of bushes.

“Ouch! Ouch! My bones! You’re hurting me.”

How ridiculous for a seniors’ apartment building to have a cobbled path.

Once out of sight, she straightened up. “I’m not like them,” she said.

Pushing the wheelchair turned out to be hard work. The chair was old and extremely heavy. The wheels didn’t turn and glide as easily as I had expected. Then there was the challenge of crossing streets…impatient traffic, high curbs, large knobbles in the paving at the corners to help guide the blind, the joins between paving slabs, the cracks and potholes…

My mother threw herself to the left as the sidewalk slanted steeply down to the right. “It’s going over! It’s going over!” Her arthritic hands gripped the armrests, knuckles white.

I pushed on. “Nearly there.”

“Don’t go so close to the road. You’re too near the edge. You’re going to kill me.”

“I’m sorry,” she said to a woman who stood aside for us to pass. “My daughter doesn’t know how to drive this thing yet.”

We turned off the main road onto a quieter street. It was a bright day and the sun was warm, just a hint of a breeze. My mother’s grip on the armrests loosened. I took a deep breath and slowed down.

We trundled along.

“Oh look!” she gasped. A magnolia tree in full glorious bloom. “Just look at it!” She opened her arms and leaned forward, as though to embrace the tree. “How beautiful!”

But I wasn’t looking at the magnolia. I was looking down at her white hair lifting softly in the breeze, dancing on her shoulders.

magnolia

*****

2016 is my Year of the Blurt: each week I’ll take advantage of an odd spare moment or two to write something very quickly. Probably the Blurts will mostly be fiction, but who knows! (In fact, this week, as you can see, I ended up writing creative non-fiction.)

Thank you for dropping by to read this week’s Blurt. It was inspired by the Daily Prompt’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Dance.

Please note: all material on this website, except for comments by others, is © Susi Lovell.

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8 thoughts on “Finding the Dance

  1. Heartbreaking and poignant Susi. I too hate those archaic wheelchairs and feel there is a fortune to be made in a light, easy re-design. We planted a memorial magnolia tree for my mother in law after her death. She grew up in the south and always loved magnolias.

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    • My sisters and I had a big learning curve in finding out how to evaluate wheelchairs – and all sorts of other equipment too. How lovely to plant a magnolia tree as a memorial. They don’t blossom for long but they certainly lift the heart when they do.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This piece left me breathless. People don’t just struggle with infirmities that come with age, but also with the indignities that come with them. Which means even more of a struggle for the younger relatives looking after them.

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    • Thanks, Chris. Loss of mobility for a proud, very active person is just terrible. But lovely, unexpected moments of relief too! For my mother, that was often with flowers and trees which was why I wanted to get her to the park. I have to say I was very unsure about writing a non-fiction piece! I’ve been very much enjoying your non-fiction!

      Like

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