"Why am I in a wheelchair in all these pictures?" she said.
This was my mother speaking. She was sitting in her tilting wheelchair, her broad hips filling the space between the armrests, her head pushed forward by her curved upper back, her legs in front of her resting uselessly on black metal supports.
"Because you ARE in wheelchair," I said out loud, lamely, suppressing my inward alarm at her lack of comprehension.
Her yellow peasant skirt with mirrored sequins was pulled down to cover her legs and as much of the metal leg rests as possible. Below the hemline appeared the beige socks covering her ankles and feet. Although she can bend her knees and her ankles, most of the time the weight of her lower limbs drapes lamely. Her legs are workers without a job.
When she fell and fractured both her legs a year and a half ago, the orthopedists told us that these were life ending injuries. Their prediction was inaccurate.
"In this situation, amputation might be appropriate," the seasoned orthopedist had said, talking over her head directly to me. I had recoiled from the thought of his capable hands cutting off my mother's legs.
"No," I said to him. Inwardly, I thought, "We'll make do with these. We'll do the best we can with what we have."
She has done the best she can. Dementia protects her from grasping her situation. I suffer from the sidelines.
"Do you have a car?" she recently asked my visiting brother.
"Yes," he said, pointing to his rental car out in the parking lot.
"Can we go out to eat?"
He was heartsick at the request.
"No," he said. "I can't get you in my car."
"I can fit," said my mother.
"It's not that you can fit, it's that I can't get you in the car because you can't stand," he said as gently as possible.
"I can walk," she shot back. "I've seen a picture of me walking."
I wasn't surprised when my brother told me this story. She used to really like going for a ride. One time she told me that she could actually walk, that she was just pretending that she couldn't.
"Does anyone else use that bathroom?" she asked me the other day when we were in her room.
"No," I replied. "That is only for you." I waited, then added, "Have you seen anyone else use it?"
"No," she said, "but I might need to go in there. I have to go to the bathroom." My mother hasn't been on a commode since she broke her legs. She relies on adult diapers and the willingness of her aides to clean her up.
"If you need to go to the bathroom," I said, "push that red button," pointing to the call light at the end of the cord that hangs from the wall in her room.
I've taken to jotting down notes: snippets from wise conversations and sermons. There is no end to this story, so I land here, looking for wisdom.
This time with your mother is a blessing.
Love is an act, something that you do.
Love is hard, laborious, something you work at.
A difficult task needs...
I didn't write down the end to that last sentence. I am trying to recall it. I wonder.