What Love Looks Like

They were three. The father pushing the silver Cadillac wheelchair. Swerving, gliding along Chicago’s Michigan Avenue on a hot August day. The father’s eyes with an intensity that could grab summer by the throat and make it shake if summer got in the way of caring for his son.

The boy in the chair like a rag doll. Slipping to the side, his father reaches over to right the boy, tries to make him comfortable. The boys eyes are blank.

The mother off a bit to the side in giant sunglasses. As if to separate herself at least for this one moment. Her mouth a grim straight line. The father focusing on the task at hand. The boy flailing as he rode.

There was a Michigan Avenue hotel they had likely come from. Paying the big vacation money. Let the boy see Chicago. We can take a vacation too. The three cross Randolph Street and roll into Millennium Park. Where in the middle of 8 million people there might be the chance for a person—or for these three—to find a quiet, shady spot that felt as if they were almost alone.

Andthe office worker watching sends out a prayer for landscape architects, for old Mayor Daley the son, for all those who laid the sod and planted the trees. This little oasis they planned and built. These very flowers, splashes of quiet colors can give these three just a moment. For the father to bring out the gallon-sized clear zip lock bag crammed with prescription bottles, tubes, ointments and potions, all of them packed to make it through airport security, and to do what the father is about to do.

The mother stands to the side. Almost to disassociate herself, almost to say, “No I am not with them,” but there is a shred of her soul showing – she’s using it to stand guard over her men.

The boy’s head slips to the side. The father rights him. The father starts preparing the feeding bar and tube. He pours, mixes, shakes. Shoots the liquid through the tube and it arcs out on to a tiny patch of green grass. The father preparing lunch for his child. Every move practiced. Deliberate. As if he’s always done this. Always will. And will never, ever ever stop paying attention to make sure he gets it right. Because this is who he is. This is what he does. He takes care of his son.

The boy sits squirming in his chair, while his father performs a lengthy, complex procedure barely imaginable to any random soul who might be part of their quiet corner. And the boy is being fed.

The three pause or a moment. Take a breath. Perhaps buried deep in the grim-faced mother’s heart is the thought that it’s his turn, the father. Maybe she thinks, this is not what I signed up for, I did not know. I never could have guessed. And if I want a little distance on the big trip to Chicago…who are you or anybody else to judge me? I love my son. I do love my son.

The father watches the girls in their summer dresses breeze by and maybe he remembers a time when everything was different.

Maybe the boy in the wheelchair hears a faraway whisper of a guitar, that plays the song where he gets up from that chair, strolls up a path in Millennium Park and a summer girl in a yellow dress turns and gives him a second look that lingers.

While an office worker marvels at the strength of all three pieces of this family puzzle, as he gets ready to go back inside one of the buildings and start filling out spreadsheets with meaningless numbers, thinking about this boy whose parents do what they do to care for him. The worker thinks about what lies beyond this boy and his parents, the thousands, the millions who don’t have the money to buy his version of health. All those who wouldn’t even stop to think for a moment about answers to questions like, “Is health care a right or a privilege?” Because they’d be too busy wondering if they had the pills they needed to do something about the pain. Too busy thinking about what it was going to take to make it through the day.

All those people in all those wheel chairs lined up right behind that boy in the Cadillac of wheelchairs. That boy with the parents on either side of him. Doing the best they can.

While the office worker watching them hears the sound of a gentle guitar saying: this is what love looks like.
Originally published in http://www.fictionique.com

2 Responses to “What Love Looks Like”

  1. Ted Schneider Says:

    I would agree that is what love is about. To have a child that requires that kind of care and that will never experience life like most of us is sad. We take a lot for granted and when I hear people talk about how their kids could do better etc. etc., I thank God my three are healthy and as normal as things can be in today’s world. A co-worker has two older children she needs to care for each day before coming to work, work and then go home to continue caring for them – the true test of a loving parent.

  2. Paulhaider74 Says:

    Yes, this is what love is from a parent to a child. Of course, I prefer my children to be exactly as they are right now: invisible and nonexistent.
    Paul Haider, Chicago

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