I was sitting in my doctor’s office waiting to be called in for a flu shot when I saw them enter: a man about my age and his quite elderly mother. He walked slowly, keeping cadence with her pace. She leaned over her walker and shuffled toward the check-in desk.
“My mom is here for her 11:00 appointment,” said the son, giving his mother’s name.
“Has she been in Africa in the last 21 days?” the receptionist asked in all seriousness.
The man looked over at his fragile mother, then back at the receptionist. “Well, I don’t think so, but I guess I should ask her,” he replied. He turned toward his mother and said in a voice loud enough for her and everyone in the waiting room to hear, “Mom, have you been in Africa in the last 21 days?”
From my perspective I couldn’t see the elderly woman’s face, but I could see her frail shoulders bouncing up and down as she chuckled to herself. “No,” she said, and as she turned to move toward a chair in the waiting room I could see the amusement in her eyes still. What a sweet moment the two of them shared. What unexpected joy was found in what was no doubt an appointment neither particularly wanted to keep. The receptionist was just following office procedure during this recent Ebola scare, and didn’t know she’d brightened the day of everyone within hearing distance in the process—especially the day of the elderly patient.
As soon as the man and his mom had come through the door, my heart had gone out to them. It’s impossible for me to see someone helping an elder they love without remembering such days with my mother-in-law and my mom, both now in heaven. Oh, how I prayed I could get my mom-in-law into Wendy’s for the cheeseburger and Frosty she craved without her falling. She planned morning doctor appointments so we could indulge ourselves at Wendy’s afterwards. I didn’t want her to fall on my watch.
My mom remained fairly mobile until near the end of her life, but I remember how cautiously I drove whenever I had her in the car, and how I insisted she wear her seatbelt—an invention she never appreciated fully.
But there was joy in those times, too. How I wish I could take Mary Frances for a Frosty, or Mom for a ride, one more time.
I was called in for my shot. Leaving the doctor’s office a few minutes later I walked by the chairs where the man and his mother were still waiting. The three of us shared a smile, and the knowledge that loving is always worth the price. Especially on days when a little unexpected joy comes your way.