As we were making preparations for hurricane Sandy today, the super-storm that will write a new chapter in the book of Connecticut's weather history, my mother-in-law came over.
She came to watch the Steelers in their old uniforms, looking like bumblebees, dominate the Red Skins. Mamaw is a die hard Steeler fan. When she donates blood, the nurses are aghast when they put the needle in her vein because they've never seen someone who bleeds in black and gold.
"What are you doing, son?" she asked my husband, as she fidgeted with her knitting.
"I'm going to clean the gutters."
"Do you want any help?"
"Who's gonna help?" he asked.
"Me!" she answered, twirling yarn in her fingers.
My husband looked at me, nostrils flared as he tried to contain his laughter. "No...that's okay. I've got it."
You guys...Mamaw is 63 years old. And blind. And those aren't even the reasons that makes the idea of her helping clean the gutters, ridiculous.
Anytime she goes anywhere with us, it takes her nearly 10 minutes to hoist herself into our minivan. My husband and I usually have to help her, pulling legs and arms and stuffing body fat in order to seat her securely in the vehicle. She gets out of breath when she goes up the six steps to our family room. She gets lost on her way to the bathroom. And if she sits for longer than 5 minutes, it takes her a while to warm up before she can move again. She once had an intestinal problem which made her sit a little longer on the thrown and her legs were so stiff, she was stuck there for half a day!
Clean the gutters she says? Preposterous.
I want to take care not to sound like I'm making fun of our sweet Mamaw. These are merely facts. If they are hysterical, it's not my fault. Besides, we love Mamaw just the way she is. I love bringing her coffee so she doesn't have to get up. I don't mind taking her grocery shopping, even if she tries to run me over with the shopping cart every single time and makes messes in the aisle because she can't keep her hands to herself and loves to knock over displays and call it "browsing."
It's okay that she needs us. We love that about her. The kids love leading her places and fixing her plates of food. The fact that she needs us is part of her charm. Besides, she's earned the right to take a load off and let us take care of her!
But she doesn't see it that way. This is a woman who has been blind for most of her life and still ran a business for over twenty years. She raised a son on her own. She navigated cities and managed volunteer organizations. She buried two husbands. Mamaw is woman. Hear her roar.
To her, the idea of appearing anything but strongly independent, is an insult.
She is independent and strong and wonderful and not at all handicapped despite being without her sight. But she's also not as young as she once was and add that to the blindness and a little extra girth and the result is that she simply can't get around the way she used to. She's still totally capable and amazing as ever. It's just that, well, we don't want her to hurt herself.
She still thinks she can do anything though and it's a bit maddening.
Mamaw suffers from what some might call a bad case of "delusions of grandeur." The next time she offers to (and I'm not even kidding about this), help rotate the tires, cut the grass with a riding mower, put 60 pound suitcases on the roof of our van, shovel 2 feet of snow out of our driveway or move the refrigerator out of the kitchen, I almost want to take her up on her offer to see how she fares.
But I won't. Despite all evidence to the contrary, I'll tell her that I know she can do all those things and that wow, she's even stronger than I am but the kids were really looking forward to playing a game of gin rummy with her using her braille cards and could she do that instead?
If all works out well, she'll still think she can change the oil in our minivan when she's 95!