You don't often see a twelve year old girl walk into a public place making deft use of a white cane; I didn't stare but I couldn't help but notice. From where I sat at a table in Burger King, I watched her enter through the side door, her mother a few feet behind her, quietly giving her directions. Small child to your left. Ketchup packet on the floor to your right.
Mom never touched her, but instead let her navigate her way to the front counter. To your right. In two steps to your left.
They got to the counter and Mom stepped back. The thought ran through my head that this was a prearranged visit, as the manager gently motioned the cashier aside and took over; the young lady asked for a Braille menu, made her choice and ordered, and then reached into the purse that was slung carefully over one shoulder while resting on the other hip. She withdrew her wallet and reached in with nimble fingers, touching bills. When she found what she wanted, she paid, and then waited at the counter for her food.
Mom still hung back; her daughter held her cane in one hand and picked up the tray with her food in the other, and turned, waiting for direction to the soda fountain.
It was the only thing she really needed help with, figuring out where the ice dispenser was, and where she needed to hold her cup in order to fill it.
As they finished capping their drink cups, I got up to get a refill of my own, and as they turned the girl squealed, "Mom! I can see that! What's that big fat yellow blob?"
Um. That would be me.
Me and my hi-viz, neon neon neon lime green sweatshirt.
That big fat yellow blob.
(I was going to leave that part out, but, well...when I told the Spouse Thingy at dinner he damn near choked enchiladas out his nose and if I left it out, he'd surely add it to the comments.)
I stopped short; what do you say to that? You don't take offense, because hey, the blind girl saw something. It's not like she knew it was you and was slinging an insult. She saw something colorful, as much of it as she could see, and was excited.
No offense taken.
It was a nonevent, really. Mom was curious where I'd gotten the sweatshirt; outfitting the entire family in hi-viz lime green seemed like a reasonable thing to do when out in public. She wrote down the URL from which I had ordered the sweatshirt, thanked me, and followed her daughter to a nearby table.
I filled my cup halfway, swigged it down, and headed back out to my scooter.
As I zoomed around town I pondered their BK excursion; it seemed to be a very ordinary thing under not so ordinary circumstances. Anyone who has had kids has been there, standing back while our child takes those steps towards some semblance of independence, even if it is simply placing the order at BK and paying for it. The difference here was that this child couldn't see, and Mom was allowing her the practice with a sense of grace and a palpable amount of patience.
But later, when I was telling the Spouse Thingy about the girl, how she managed her way through Burger King, placing an paying for her own order, the thought occurred to me--that was less likely practice for a twelve year old girl as it was a letting go for a dedicated mother.
The daughter surely had rehabilitative training, teaching her how to move in public, how to cope with the loss of sight. But Mom? You can offer all the rehab you want, but it's hard enough to let go when your kids are fully-abled. Surely it takes some practice when all your child can see is shadows and indefinite shades of gray...and neon neon neon bright lime green.
I'm not sure I could do it.