Me: (limping through the mall, having already used up all my mobility and energy on an errand to the hospital. All with in the same city block as my apartment) Yes, my love.
Hank: Mama, do you need to sit down? You’re having trouble.
Me: (deep breath) I think we should just muscle through this errand, frankly.
Hank: Are you sure? You keep tripping and I don’t want you to fall.
Me: (pausing in front of a small kiosk café with tables) Maybe, I should listen to my best boy and have a short rest. I will give you some coins to order a cake and a fizzy water. (handing Hank my coin purse, something that normally causing him to panic at the idea of ordering all by himself and grabbing a table)
Hank: (approaching the counter, calling back) Do you want anything, mama?
Me: Just a glass of water, please.
Hank: (ordering shyly before coming over to the table)
Me: Well done. You were brave.
Hank: (realizing what he accomplished) I didn’t even think about it. I just did it.
Me: Sometimes the smallest things are the biggest victories!
Hank: You can have some of my cake, mama. (waitress brings out Hanks order) Obrigado (thank you).
Me: Obrigada (thank you).
Waitress: Vocês precisa de mais alguma coisa? Um café? Tu parece muita cansada, menina. (Do y’all need anything else? A coffee? You are looking very tired, young lady.)
Me: (Shaking off the shame wanting to creep into a blush across my face, knowing she watched me limp over to her café, knowing she saw how concerned Hank was, wondering if she was listening into our conversation as she is the right age to speak English fluently, shaking off the small town habitual interference in other peoples lives, trying not to take her observation personally but rather as kindly meant, taking a deep breath, answer confidently with a casual sigh and a big smile) Sempre, menina. Não obriagda, estamos bem. (Always, young lady. No, thank you, we’re fine.)
Hank: (mouth already covered in crumbs) We can go home, mama. Do you need to go home?
Me: Nope. I need to accomplish my list and then I can go home and not leave again for the rest of the day. I am sorry I am making you nervous, Hank. Please, do not worry. We both know I have good days and bad days. This day is leaning more towards a bad day.
Hank: I just don’t want you to fall. If you fall everyone will freak out. I will freak out.
Me: I agree that other people will overreact, but what I need from you because you understand that I am doing my best, is to stay calm and be my advocate.
Hank: What is an advocate?
Me: An advocate is person of support that can keep a clear head and defend the rights or explain the situation of another calmly and clearly for all to understand. If I do fall on our way to the supermarket what I need from you is to not panic. Adults will swoop in and I will let them help me, but I need you to stay calm and explain that I am fine, that I am just having a bad day with my right leg and that everything is alright.
Hank: I can tell them it is because of your rheumatoid arthritis.
Me: If the subject comes up, but we don’t need to go into too much detail unless there is blood or I am not conscience (backtracking) BUT that is not going to happen. I am merely having a bad day. My hip is not cooperating. It is too busy fighting inflammation to get the right signals from my brain. In English we would say, “I have a hitch in my giddy-up.” It’s really no big deal and I am already feeling better. You were right. I just needed to sit for a minute.
Hank: I don’t know how to not panic if you fall down. I would be so worried.
Me: You would do your best and this conversation will help you. Remember what I told you about panic? You cannot help yourself or others if you panic. You have to keep a clear head, punch fear in the face and when the crisis is over THEN you can panic.
Hank: But you aren’t going to fall.
Me: I am not. When we get to the supermarket I will get a cart and lean on it while we buy the items on our list. (pause) Oh goodness, did we forget the list? (digging in my purse)
Hank: I typed it into your phone. Your phone is in the front pocket of your purse.
Me: Whoosh! See, I panicked a tiny bit just then. Did you notice? And because I didn’t stay clam and collected, instead rushing and riffling through my purse, I wasn’t able to think clearly. (leaning back in my chair, taking a deep breath, sipping my glass of water)
Hank: You do look tired, mama.
Me: Baby, I am tired. I am tired every minute of the day. I sleep 8,10,12,15 hours and I wake up just as tired as I went to bed. I can drink a million coffees and it doesn’t help one bit. Everyday I feel like I am having the worst flu of my life, but that is not going to stop me from buying batteries, paprika… Um, what else was on our list?
Hank: Granola bars because we forgot to make them over break.
Me: That’s right, man. I’m sorry. I completely forget we were going to make granola bars.
Hank: Oh, I remembered we were going to make them over Ferias de Carnival (Carnival vacation), but I was just too lazy. I just wanted nothing to do with baking.
Me: Nothing wrong with that.
Me: For what, baby.
Hank: You still do things even when you are sick, because you will always be sick. Forever, right?
Me: Maybe not forever, baby. You have to have hope that scientists will find a cure or discover a new treatment for my body to function better than it is now.
Hank: Thanks, mama.
Me: Thank you, baby. You are so observant. You notice the littlest, most important details. You see things others miss, but you can’t find your own shoes to save your life! (slapping the table, huge smile painted across my tired face)
Me: And don’t get me started on searching something out in the kitchen.
Me: And there is no sending you to the bathroom to fetch me some chap stick or a package of tissues, nope.
Hank: (positively purple with laughter)
Me: You couldn’t find a king cobra hissing in front of your face, you are so bad.
Hank: (buckling in his chair in absolute hysterics)
Me: (smirking into my water glass, mood lightened, mission accomplished)