Um, are you talking to me?

Um, are you talking to me?

The Jerky Old Man in the Church Parking Lot

I am going to tell you some of my favorite stories from my life with MS and as a mom.   Some of them will be funny anecdotes, and some of them will teach us some good old fashion life lessons.  We all have these stories; I have just decided to share mine.   I would love to hear yours too, so please, share in the comments!

Let’s start with a life lesson.  Today’s lesson is: Don’t judge a book by its cover.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been a pretty judgmental person, and I’m thinking I’m starting to pay for it.   I would be the first one yelling at line jumpers, rolling eyes at people buying junk food on food stamps, scolding pedestrian teenagers for standing in the middle of the road, and so on.   If I felt someone was experiencing injustice, I was the first to open my big mouth.  So, since some of these lessons I have had to learned the hard way, I am going to do you a public service and help you out on this one.   Let’s talk about judging people who use handicap parking passes.

My sister-in-law and I were talking a few weeks ago about the various reasons one might need a handicap tag.  She is a nurse at an oncologist’s office, and issues tags to her patients.  Yes, sometimes those few extra steps from the regular parking lot are just too much for someone with Stage 4 cancer.  So, those of you who know me know I look perfectly normal.  However, if I am left in the heat or humidity for longer than a few brief minutes my right hand and leg stop working as they should, and my skin becomes so painful that it takes me days to recover.  Literally, days.   Therefore, I have a handicap tag that I use when it is hot outside.  That way I can get to the door as fast as humanly possible before I turn to J-E-LL-O.   I DO NOT ABUSE THIS TAG.  My friends and family will vouch for the fact that I only use it when it’s hot or humid outside.   I specifically remember an instance when a few friends and I were driving around a crowded parking lot , in the middle of winter, and instead of using my tag, we parked in the back of the lot, and walked prrrretttty far in the cold (which I didn’t mind, but they did not love).

So, that brings me to jerky old man in the church parking lot.  First, I understand that by calling him “jerky old man in the church parking lot”, I am in fact judging, and doing the very thing that I am asking you to avoid.  However, “old guy in the church parking lot who seemed pretty grouchy and gave me the business may have just had a bad day” is way too long.    Now, let me set the scene for you guys.  I drove to a church an hour and a half away to attend a healing mass.  Yes, you read that right.  I was there with hundreds of other people hoping to be healed (I wasn’t healed from MS, but I did conceive and that’s a story for another day: Miracles Do Happen).  It was in the middle of summer last year, so, of course it was hot and humid.  I parked in the handicap spot just as an older gentleman was parking in the handicap spot beside me.  I was there alone, remember, so if I became too hot and unable to drive home someone was going to have to drive an hour and a half to come and get me.  I started my usual MS hustle to the front door of the church, when the man yelled at me, “Hey, YOU, are you REALLY handicap?”   Now, I understand the judgyness here.  I am a self proclaimed recovering judgementalaholic, but the tone in his voice and the fact that we were in a CHURCH parking lot just really struck a nerve.   So, now, not only am I mad, but I have to STAND there in the HEAT and explain to him that yes, I am in fact handicap, and if you keep me here long enough you might actually get to see some sweet stanky leg action (you know, Watch Me) before I fall and eat pavement.  I didn’t have enough time to really go into details with him, and honestly he really didn’t seem to buy it.   I get it, I saw a news clip the other day about handicap tags going missing from cars parked at metro stations, but I didn’t deserve his attitude, especially since I was walking into church.  I mean, come on, have a little faith.  Maybe he has seen tags abused too many times, maybe he had to park in a regular spot one day and saw someone abusing a handicap spot, or maybe he really was a jerk.  Either way, we all learned a lesson here.   You don’t really know what is going on in the lives of strangers.

So, next time you see a perfectly healthy looking person use a handicap spot, give them a break.  You don’t know what’s going on in his/her life.  And when you see a mom struggling to wrangle her four year old while she gets her infant out of the car as fast as she can, instead of judging, or staring, why don’t you bring her a shopping cart?  And that’s another thing, why are those shopping cart holders so far away from the handicap spots, anyway…

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7 thoughts on “Um, are you talking to me?

  1. Great post!

    I’m a friend and former patient of your wonderful sister in law. I have a neurological condition which is very much like advanced MS. This summer was my 20 year anniversary with it. This autumn is my 20th anniversary of meeting her. I could spend the next 20 years writing about how amazing she is. It wouldn’t do her justice, because she is beyond words.

    Yup, the HP spot thing is one of those things you just have to feel no qualms about. It might appear to be a totally able bodied person using one, and just when you start do get judgemental, they come out of that grocery store pushing someone in a wheelchair. You just have to assume that they have an un-obvious issue. If it’s 90 degrees out, and an extra thirty seconds of walking in it is going to flare things up for you, don’t even think twice.

    I live outside of Boston. It’s a nightmare for parking for anyone. I think it has toughened me up.

    But I totally agree with you about the shopping cart thing! It’s great that the stores have people to bring them back in from the parking lot. But it’s just so great when I pull in and there is still one there in the hp spot from the last person! To me, they are like a walker. I can’t get through a store without one. It’s so great when it’s right there!

    Anyway, it was great to read your post. I will look forward to many more!

    Shannon

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    1. Hi Shannon!

      Thanks so much for reading, and for commenting! I’m sorry to hear of your condition, but I’m glad to hear that you were one of my sister-in-law’s patients! She is amazing and I’m sure helped brighten many of your days. Don’t know what her fam would do without her!! The shopping cart thing is crazy! When I get out of the car and I have the infant car seat to carry in with me I WISH the cart was right there. I hope we can share more stories together!

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  2. When my nightmare thing occurred, I was the mom of a ten month old, living hundreds of miles way from any friends or family members. I was totally stranded.

    In the critical time where I was hospitalized in treatment with various hospital and rehab employees, I was struck by how much variation there was on the entire end of the medical spectrum.

    Maria was the person who just walked in and took it all in and knew I needed a connection. She was the most major factor in my recovery. When everyone else was telling me I would be lucky to spend my life in a wheelchair, Maria had my back, and fully supported it.

    I made a way better than expected recovery with her support. And twenty years later I am doing well, and way better than predicted.

    It’s a very difficult personal experience. But if there is one person you can completely trust is is Maria.

    And if you think that I can ever be of help to you, don’t hesitate to reach out!

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  3. I’m so glad Maria was there for you!!! She is definitely the rock of the family, and completely unselfish. Thank you so much for reaching out, Shannon. I am so glad you are doing better than predicted. I think a positive attitude makes a huge difference. Please contribute to these posts as much as you want! Hopefully we can help other people who are feeling hopeless!

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