I tend not to do things very quietly, which is probably why when I chose to lose my balance and fall, it was right on the corner of Kikar Shabbos, on Erev Sukkos. That morning, I had realized that I was actually ahead of schedule and decided to run up to Geula to purchase a few presents for the einiklach. (Which was really dumb. No one in their right mind runs up to Geula on Erev Yom Tov, but bubbies have been known to do crazy things to get their grandchildren to smile! And besides, in my last column, I did point out that despite the wrinkles, we still have lots to learn.) And then, smack in the middle of the Erev Yom Tov rush, I crashed to the ground and succeeded in spraining my knee, finger, and elbow, as well as twisting a few ligaments.
It was not a pretty sight.
Two weeks after Simchos Torah, I was scheduled to travel to the United
States to visit family and friends. It is a long trip, with a two-hour layover
in Boston, and although I was looking forward to seeing my family, I was
dreading getting there, especially the hassle at the airport. My leg still
throbbed. Walking, or standing in one place, was very difficult, and I knew that between security and customs, I'd
have to do a lot of that!
My husband suggested that I request a wheelchair and disabled priority
I was aghast. Me? A wheelchair? Disabled? No way!
But I listened to reason, and what can say? It was an amazing
Instead of standing in multiple lines while juggling purse, hand luggage, and papers (and often resorting to using my teeth as a third hand!), not to mention removing my shoes and maneuvering my belongings onto a conveyer belt while somehow keeping my balance, I was treated like a queen. In Tel Aviv, my escort swiftly pushed me through the first class priority line, and within minutes, I was seated at the gate, awaiting my flight.
The same scene repeated itself in Boston. When my escort, a young man named
Mohammed, spent over half an hour pushing me through what seemed like endless
airport corridors, and across a busy street to get to the proper terminal, I
realized that I could have never done it alone.
Well, actually, I probably could have, but I would have ended up
exhausted and frazzled. And it would have taken me a week, if not more, to
recover, and by then it would be time to return home.
It is humbling to ask for help. It means that we’re not invincible, that
as we get older we are no longer that incredibly capable superwoman that we
aspired to be (but really never were). But at the same time, it's even more
humiliating to have the contents of your hand luggage come tumbling to the
floor while trying to open it and place that tiny bottle of hand cream into the
Ziploc bag that you can't possibly unzip with one hand, or trip over your shoe
laces since you knew it would be impossible to balance on one foot to tie them,
or watch the security officer try to hide his disgust as you remove the
passport from between your teeth and hand it to him, slightly damp… Shall I go
I participate in a monthly telephone support group for women dealing
with Parkinson's disease. In our last meeting, we talked about how difficult it
can be to have to rely on other people and how we tend to push ourselves beyond
our limitations, and then end up collapsing. It's easy to ask for help. We
are used to being the nurturers, the quintessential Yiddishe mamas..
But, like most people, I still have a lot to learn, and one of them is to accept help graciously. Yes, it's true, I could have traveled around the world without assistance, but would it have been worth the price? Cleaning help, paper dishes, ready-made food (believe me, no one will ever mention in your eulogy that you actually bought most of Shabbos!); they are all there to make life easier.
Grandchildren and friendly neighborhood teens who come to help with the shopping or tidying up are a gift in disguise, but the question is, who is the recipient? Perhaps through accepting help graciously, and with dignity, we are providing the next generation with an example to look up to and emulate.