22. Throw Mama from the Wheelchair

22. Throw Mama from the Wheelchair

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Matters


Throw Mama from the Wheelchair

You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm.

~Colette

Whether you call them in-laws or outlaws, it is always a struggle to fit in with your new family. I had been married five short months when my mother-in-law, Janelle, invited me to Chicago with her and her two sisters. It was a “sister trip,” and I was invited. How exciting! This was my first official sign of acceptance. I had made it. I was in.

The plan was to spend thirty-six hours “power shopping.” No time for sightseeing or lollygagging; we were on a mission. We arrived at Midway and hurried to baggage claim. But when she picked up her suitcase, Janelle threw out her back. The sisters looked nervously at each other. There was no way Janelle would be able to keep up the pace for our shopping trip. One of her sisters decided to call the hotel and arrange to have a wheelchair waiting for us.

“It will be fine,” I told Janelle. “We can push you around from store to store, and you won’t miss a thing.”

When we arrived at the Omni Hotel, there was a wheelchair waiting for her, but it was missing one foot rest and was completely rusted over. We pretended the chair was fine, but as we pushed her to the elevator, we heard the screeching serenade of rusty wheels. It was bad enough that Janelle had to be in the wheelchair, but now everyone would hear her before they saw her. She wasn’t discouraged, however, so we began the first leg of our mission.

I volunteered to push first. After all, I was practically a nurse and far more experienced in that sort of thing than her two sisters. As we approached Michigan Avenue, the traffic light changed, prompting us to go ahead and cross the intersection. However, I began to have second thoughts. What if I didn’t have enough momentum to get across all six lanes with my heavyset mother-in-law? I decided it would be best to pick up a little speed. While guiding the wheelchair into the road, the foot rest became caught on the curb. The wheelchair was at a dead stop, and my new mother-in-law was airborne!

It seemed to happen in slow motion, and there was nothing I could do but stand there watching in horror. Clad in a dressy black pantsuit, her flight was less than effortless. Her blond hair was swept back by the wind, and her arms flailed at her sides. When she finally came to rest, Janelle found herself three lanes over, in the middle of Michigan Avenue with her head a mere six inches from the bumper of a cab. Her sisters immediately began pointing and broke into hysterical laughter while the cab driver shook his head at their insensitivity.

I thought about how the traffic light would soon change, and she would be run over. I was going to have to call my husband and tell him that I killed his mother. That was not how it was supposed to go! I had just made it into the club of acceptance, and I show my gratitude by dumping my mother-in-law into the middle of a busy intersection.

Meanwhile, Janelle was trying to get up off the ground by herself because her sisters were incapacitated with laughter and I was frozen still. Then, as I had feared, the light changed. In an effort to avoid being run over myself, I instinctively backed out of the road while still clutching the wheelchair. In doing so, I was oblivious to the fact that Janelle had gimped back over to me and was attempting to sit down in the chair. Thanks to my survival instinct, I pulled the chair right out from under her and she landed, yet again, on the dirty Chicago asphalt.

Seeing Janelle in the road for the second time, her sisters quickly got their acts together and helped her back into the wheelchair. Shortly thereafter, I relinquished my wheelchair-pushing duties and began my apologies.

Thankfully, there were only minor scrapes and bruises to add to Janelle’s back injury. Although I’ll never live it down, I was quickly forgiven. This experience did, however, turn out to be a great litmus test regarding my new family. If your mother-in-law still loves you after you dump her in the road and leave her for dead, then she’s probably a keeper.

~Lori Wescott

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