Yesterday morning I was groggy from the deep shock that time changes are becoming to my system. I sat in my wheelchair in the hallway of a nice hotel waiting for Joe to bring out the footrests for the wheelchair. We were on our way to a lovely breakfast buffet which would begin a day off that we'd planned simply to adjust. A woman of about my age was vacuuming the hallway, her accent was warm with spices when she stopped to ask me if she could assist with the door at the end of the hallway. I thanked her and told her that I was waiting for my friend to bring the footrests. She smiled, nicely, and went back to vaccuuming an already clean rug.
Just as Joe was attaching the footrests to my chair I saw her bend down, grab the handle of the large industrial vaccuum and pick it up. She carried it several feet down the hallway and then gently set it down. Her face looked tired, worn. Her hands, I noticed when passing by, were hard and looked sore. This was a woman who carried more than a vaccuum, she clearly carried the responsibility for other people in other hallways. She clearly worked hard to do what she needed to do for those who needed her to do what she did.
As Joe and I moved towards the door she set down the vaccuum and came, unbidden, unasked, to open the door for us. I thanked her again, she smiled back, and thus our day began. Over breakfast we mapped out the day which included going to the Imperial War Museum in downtown London.
We turned a corner and were suddenly driving along the river Thames. The trees were raining golden leaves that were mysteriously lit, given the dark slate of the sky. It was beautiful, relaxing and I swear the air smelled of Agatha Christie and Christopher Fowler. As we drove, my wheelchair tucked up safely in the boot of the car, I thought about the woman in the hallway. I wondered if she ever got days where she could just pamper herself, where her only concern was catching all of the view, where no one expected anything from her.
I saw her again when we returned, hours and hours later. She was down on her knees shining something that was already shiny. She saw us and sat up, stretching her back as if it was hurting, and welcomed us back to the hotel. There was a grace about her. In the lines of her face were fatigue, maybe loss, but certainly not bitterness.
Sitting in my wheelchair in a room made lovely by other's work, I feel something settle gently on my shoulders. Perspective.