A few weeks ago I went to the supermarket baby-free (which actually means I had a mini-holiday) and while I was waiting at the checkout behind a youngish man I noticed he had, who I presumed was his mum, with him in a wheelchair. They had put there items on the conveyor belt and were struggling to get through the checkout aisle. His mum’s wheelchair was just a tad too big to fit through the snug exist. I could feel this guy becoming more and more agitated, and strangely enough I think he was embarrassed. He got quite firm with his mum and blamed her for making their shopping trip ‘so hard!’. He was being so mean to her. I just froze.
Memories came flooding back of me wheeling my mum in her wheelchair for a walk along the beach 3 months before she died. I pushed her up and down hills, through shrubs to get a good view of the whales that had come in and finally stopping for a view of the waves crashing on the beach. She fell asleep while watching the waves and I remember watching her and thinking ‘this is one of those moments that I won’t understand how precious it is until she’s gone’. And I was right. I was painfully right. At the time I was dripping with sweat, hungry for lunch and waiting for my husband to come in from the surf so we could just go and get on with our day.
I wish I had the strength to say something to that man in the supermarket. I wish I could have said ‘look after her. Love her. No-one is judging you, or your mum. If anything people are looking at you with love and admiration. Some people would give anything to be in your shoes, taking their mum out shopping. Absorb this moment as much as you can because one day you’ll look back and realise just how special these moments are’.
But all the memories that were swirling around in my heart were consuming all my energy. I couldn’t move my lips, I couldn’t even look away. Eventually they paid for their groceries and went through the side of the shops. I remember thinking to myself ‘if I could go back in time to when mum fell asleep watching the waves, what would I do?’ I’d wake her up! I’d wake her up and talk to her. I’d ask her every single question I could to learn more about her, about our history, about her as a mum when I was a baby. Just then I looked up and saw the young guy pushing his mum past my shopping register. He was silent and looked like he’d just finished sucking lemons. Then I looked at his mum. She was sunken into her chair, avoiding all eye contact and you could just tell she felt like a burden and was feeling shit about herself.
I lost it. With tear starting to welt up in my eyes the cashier asked if I had hayfever…’Nope! I just miss my mum’. A 29 year old independent woman, crying at the lady in the supermarket because I miss my mummy.
Look – I understand that there were people who had their eyes fixated on this guy. I can appreciate that most probably for the entire trip he had someone, somewhere watching him with his disabled mum. I understand the pressure he must have felt. I get it. I’ve been there. But this time, I was one of those people who was watching, not being watched.
I was watching them in awe. In awe of what he was able to do with his mum, and that he actually cared enough to take the time out to do things with her. With every moment I watched them I somehow felt closer to mum. And I know that most of the other people watching, were watching with loving and admiring eyes. I wish he knew that.
So with me understanding this, when I notice people looking at me – why do I automatically assume that I’m being judged. I immediately accept that I’m being judged on my weight, or my clothes or even the way I behave with my son. When in actual fact they could be admiring me (opposed to judging me), or maybe they’re enjoying my sons giggles and smiles…or maybe, just maybe that person who is looking at me has lost a daughter, wife or friend and I’m reminding them of some happy memories.
From now on when I see someone looking at me, instead of avoiding eye contact and scurrying in the opposite direction, I’m going to look at them and smile.
Please don’t take your family or friends for granted. There are no guarantees in life. No promises that life will always be just as good as it is today. No promises that your mum will always be there to catch you in a big bear hug. No promises that your friend will always be there to answer your calls to listen and your worries…because maybe, you will outlive all of them. E x