Jim, a young man in a wheelchair
(and trying not to blink)
As I was waking from the parking lot towards Grady Hospital, the day after Fr. Eduardo was brought in to the Trauma unit, I saw the usual diverse group of people going in and coming out. Doctors, nurses, people who worked there and those coming in to see family members who were patients there. I also noticed a young man in a wheelchair trying to get to the front entrance. You see, the whole main entrance of Grady is a ramp, no steps, just a steady incline into the building. For someone in a wheelchair, it can be rough going if no one is with them.
I watched him for a short time, making lots of short spurts up the incline but making very little headway. He was a small man, probably weighing less than 110 pounds. He was young, looked like he was around 25 years old at the top end, or perhaps just 19. So I walked from the front, not wanting to scare him and asked if he wanted some help. He looked up and said yes with some relief. As we went up I found out his name was Jim. He could not talk very well, so I had to listen intently in order to understand him.
When we entered the hospital, I said goodbye and walked over to the information desk. Grady is very large and can be very confusing the first few times going there. As I left the information desk, I again found Jim trying to make his way and helped him a little more. He was getting off on the second floor and I was going up to the sixth to stay with Fr. Eduardo. We shook hands and I wished him a good day and hoped that his visit with his doctor came out ok.
I guess we all need a push from time to time from strangers. Grady is an immense place; for Jim, I guess it was experienced as twice as big and much more difficult to get around in than I did. When I was young, I took my agility for granted. The lightness of my body, the way I could move and stand on my hands and do power yoga was not a big deal. Today, my body is not quite so lightsome, nor supple, but stiff and filled with the pains that come with aging. Seeing Jim made me thankful for the body I have and that I can still get around……but please don’t ask me to climb more than three flights of stairs. I tried it and it was slow going believe me. First flight, no problem, second flight, a little more difficult, the third flight my legs hurt, I was having trouble breathing and I felt like I weighed four hundred pounds, won’t go into the fourth flight, not a pretty sight but no doubt an onlooker would find some comedy in it (I do).
When young I would run up many flights of stairs without breaking a breath…..now I can barely breathe. There is humor in all of this. If I had to actually run anywhere, I would probably die laughing at myself…..it would be a ludicrous sight. I am not one of those who age with grace. Sometimes my back hurts, at other times it is my hip, then on certain days, it is my knees turn to let me know that they exist and I should pay attention to them. I do, believe me, I do. My knees can be very whinny. Quite a trip the human aging process, no time to get bored.
As I was leaving, I saw Jim again and I guess he was there all day. I said goodbye to him and I kind of hoped I would see him the next day. I did not, and hopefully, that means he was home safe.
The shortness of our lives is a blessing, for if we had an infinite amount of time in this world, I wonder if we would actually do much at all? Time is more precious than gold because we have so little of it. I can think that ten years from now is a long way off, but then, well, ten years have passed. As the saying goes: just don’t blink….but I always do, and find myself quite a bit further down the road.
Each of us has to try to make sense of life. I have not come very far with that, but I am glad I am here, also glad that the trip goes by fast, even if at times I would like to apply the brakes a bit. I have made peace with how ephemeral life is, and that brings to light how important it is to seek the one thing necessary. I somehow feel that it is not about money, or power, or staying young looking. Being a beautiful corpse is not what it is cracked up to be. I want to look worn out and tired when I die…..no problem with that. I am more than three quarters (If I am lucky) there already.