Ladybugs and Wheelchairs

“Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.”—Rainer Maria Rilke

Writing has always been a challenge for me to do daily.  Since my mother’s illness and hospitalization, writing has had to take a place even lower on my daily to-do list.  The thought of losing my mother has frozen my creativity and saddened me beyond my usual depression.  It’s not that moments of inspiration haven’t occurred.  It’s just that they haven’t seemed to be able to rise above my daily commitments.

Last week I sat outside the nursing home with my mother in her wheelchair.  We talked about the beauty of the surrounding gardens, some news items, and her complaints about the nursing home.  She repeatedly stated her longing to go home and showed her confusion about why she can’t do it.  Then a period of silence set in, all conversation ended momentarily.

I began to watch a ladybug crawling on the metal table in front of us.  She went first in one direction toward the edge of the table, and then she turned around to make her way to another edge.  She wasn’t frantic in her efforts, just methodical.  I reached for a small leaf resting on the table, gently slid it under her body, and lowered her to the grass.  It just seemed to me that she would be happier in the grass.  She may have been able to do that herself (or as my husband later pointed out to me, ladybugs do fly, a comment that destroyed my satisfaction in helping her), but still I felt better after she was on the ground.

I continued to watch her for a while longer.  She climbed up on a blade of grass, her weight causing it to arc over, and then when she reached the tip of the blade, she moved to the tip of another blade, swinging a little on it, and continuing along the grassy area.  I’d like to think I did a good thing, moving her to a better place.  I’ll never really know if she was unhappy on the metal table.  But it didn’t seem like a natural habitat for her, unlike the grass.

I feel the same way about the tiny half-room my mother occupies on the second floor of the nursing home.  Sitting in a wheelchair is not natural for her.  Being unable to stand up without an alarm going off is not normal for her.  She went into the hospital a strong walker, using a walker only for security.  She uses her strong legs at times to move down the hall in her wheelchair, at least during those times when she realizes she can.  Other times she is confused and believes she is not allowed to move, unable to distinguish between moving her wheelchair along and standing up to walk, something not allowed there.  She feels imprisoned, held down by rules of safety but not really living her life the way she could.  I struggle with guilt, wanting to take her home to her apartment but aware that her confusion could lead her to do something unsafe.  She could fall and break a hip, or turn on the stove or burn something in the microwave.  Round-the-clock care is out of the question.  At $24 an hour, she would be totally broke in a few months, all her savings gone, and forced to apply for Medicaid and enter a nursing home, perhaps one even worse than where she is now.

I guess if there is such a thing as reincarnation, I would not mind becoming a ladybug.  If I wanted to, I could fly away.  If I walked along a metal table looking for a way down, perhaps someone would come along and assist me to the ground where I could swing on blades of cool grass and move along on my own, independent and strong.


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