We had finished lunch in the cafeteria at the ROM. On our way out, heading up to see the exhibits, I had to go the long way round through the cafeteria because the side way was blocked. Sadie joined me and said, "I'm going to push your wheelchair Dave." She loves doing this, she takes hold of the back handles of my power chair and pretends to push me as I drive along slowly. I can't go anywhere near maximum speed because her little legs wouldn't be able to keep up.
I have seen our reflection in downtown store windows and, for what it's worth, I think it's really, really cute. I see a big man in a big wheelchair with a little girl in little flip flops tiny hands on handles pushing the chair with all her might. I love the contrasts and, forgive me for being soppy, I love the love in the image. Foolishly, perhaps, I thought others would see the same, or similar, things.
I guess not.
We were nearly out of the restaurant, easing by the end of long, very long, line ups of people waiting to be served. A woman approached. I saw her coming. My size and my disability give people permission, in some bizarre way, to approach me to say nasty things. I only had a second to brace myself before she was upon me, she spat out, "Just what do you think you are teaching that child."
Now this was a new one on me.
I should be more used to this, it's not uncommon. And I am, but her comment through me. I had no idea what she was talking about or what she was upset about. Her question made no sense to me. Was she upset about my weight and that any child who is in relationship to me will suddenly get fat? Was she upset about my wheelchair and that it's for lazy fat people so the child will get lazy? I had no idea. Usually I understand whatever bigoted question comes my way, but this one, no idea. So I stayed silent.
"Well?" she said staring hard at me. "What do you think you are teaching this child?"
She pressed in on me while I just kept on going, "WELL?"
Sadie, hearing her question and hearing that I did not answer, stuck her head out from behind and said "How to be helpful and kind.
She was startled by Sadie's answer. I looked at her and said, "Yeah, what she said."
The line in front of me blocking my way to the exit eased and suddenly we were through and the lady with the startled face, turned and walked back into her life of judgement and prejudice. I hope she was shaken, just a little bit, by the little girl who pushes a really big chair.