"Dad," the kid was talking in kid whisper. You know it, the voice that can be heard throughout the store. He was one of the cutest kids I'd ever seen. Part of that was because of the wheelchair. It was tiny. Toylike. It had been jazzed up. A friend of mine had said that I needed to get some stickers for my chair then suggested that we get a group together to "Pimp Dave's Chair". Well, I hesitate to say it - the kid's ride had been pimped. It struck me that I see very few small children in wheelchairs out and about in the community - but no matter he was here, now, with his Dad.
"Dad," he said more insistently. Dad broke from what he was doing and leaned down and said, "What's up kiddo?"
Now, I love the word "kiddo" I use it all the time with people I care about. It's a real term of endearment to me, it's informal, it bespeaks closeness, it's kind of fun. It's a great word. I never ever hear other people use it though I know that others must. It telegraphed to me a lot about the relationship between father and son.
Perhaps now you are thinking that I'm lurking around watching pere et fils but I'm not. I'm parked beside a tower of green peppers and I'm selecting them. This is an important part of cooking. Joe can't pick a green pepper properly because he's not the slicer-dicer, I am. You only have to chop a few green peppers to know that there's a certain shape which lends itself to good cutting. I'm serious about picking my peck of peppers when they come into the grocery store produce section and start going through the brussel sprouts. So we are in the same space at the same time.
The boy looks over at me and points. His dad's eyes slide over to me then back to his son. "What?" he asks.
I am curious too.
"Am I going to, am I going to ..." the kid pauses.
"What, go ahead ..." Dad encourages.
"Am I going to swell up like that?" the kid finishes. Dad looks at him mortified, knowing that he's spoken loud enough for me to hear.
I'm besotted with giggles. I think it's really, really, really funny. Then I cave in and start to laugh. This brings Joe back quickly. I'm not a laugher. I'm a smiler but not a laugher. I can't even tell Joe what the kid said.
Father looks at me and says, "Sorry."
I said, gulping for air, "No need, that was funny."
Then I looked at the kid and said, "I grew up to be me, you will grow up to be you. Because we are in wheelchairs doesn't mean we become each other."
He looked relieved.
Then for a few mintues we all just chatted. The kid wants to be a scientist, he said, because he likes to make things explode. Dad tells a funny story about a firecraker in a pumpkin pie and a really upset mother. We all laugh again. Then, converstation done, I return to picking peppers, they return to getting brussel sprouts.
I roll by and say goodbye to the kid.
I hear father say, loud enough for me to hear, "You could do worse than growing up to be like him."
Nicest thing anyone has ever said about me.