She was probably twenty-years old. Five foot, 9 inches tall with dirty brown, shoulder-length hair. Her wheelchair was nothing special, pretty much run-of-the-mill as far as handicapped accessories go. It was 95 degrees outside this afternoon and she was wearing long pants. For a twenty year old, she wasn’t making much of a fashion statement, but she was sporting some pretty cool-looking Nike’s.
So I’m sitting there with my Dad in the eye doctor’s waiting room. It’s quite the good gig those optometrists have, lines of patients waiting their turn to have their vision improved. Most of the patients were of Social Security Benefits age, which means that they had old, worn-out eyes and good insurance coverage. There were a few middle-aged folks dressed in failed attempts to mask the years, but just this one young woman who actually appeared to be young. We had arrived an hour early for my Dad’s scheduled appointment, so there was a lot of time to kill. I dove into the pile of magazines on the table; Virginia Living, Newsweek, Time, and lots of travel magazines pushing trips to places that I could only hope to visit. Dad was finally called and began his journey through the various livestock gates of “Welcome/Check-In”, “You think You’re Checked-In””You’re almost Checked-In” and finally “The Examination Room”. I started to get bored and my gimpy knee was aching, so I went for a short walk outside.
When I returned to the waiting room, progress had thankfully been made. Almost all of those who had been waiting were no longer there. Except for this young woman and her Mother. A secretive glance or three in their direction quickly brought me to two conclusions.
First off, the younger woman’s afflictions were permanent. She had obvious disabilities, both learning and physical. The wheelchair wasn’t going to be a temporary home.
Secondly, somewhere there’s a portrait entitled “A Mother” and I was looking right at the painting’s subject as she sat directly across the room from me. She wasn’t embarrassed by her daughter. She didn’t tell her to ‘hush’ or take her out to the parking lot. When the Daughter laughed a silly laugh at something that she herself had said, and in which only she could find the real humor, the Mother would smile a warm smile and gently rub her Daughter’s shoulder. The younger woman wasn’t a cheerleader or a valedictorian. She was her Mother’s Daughter.
I’m flipping through a special edition of Time magazine that highlighted athlete after athlete, all members of this year’s U.S. Olympic Team. The biggest. The fastest. The most agile. The Gold Medal favorites. And then this young woman in a wheelchair begins to sing.
Jesus loves me this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to him belong
They are weak but he is strong
She sang the entire hymn, word for meaningful word. The Mother never looked up from the magazine that she was reading, but smiled such a beautiful smile as her Daughter proudly finished her rendition of the children’s favorite.
“That was nice” the Mother said to her Daughter.
Them eye doctors sure are something.
I took my Dad in for a check-up and I came out with clearer vision.