Amy and I went to see the movie “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” last Friday night. The movie was not very good, and I will have no problem “Forgetting” it, but I am glad we went. I saw something at the theatre that lifted my spirits, and they have been in dire need of lifting recently.
During the advertisements that precede the movie, a gentleman walked in pushing a woman in a wheel chair. The wheel chair was a engineering marvel as was the woman in it. She appeared to have cerebral palsy, and she had the thickest, healthiest looking head of blond hair that I have ever seen.
All the seats in the wheelchair section were already occupied – by people not needing them. In this particular theatre, the wheelchair seating is made up of two regular movie seats, a wide open area that looks as if it could accommodate 3-4 wheelchairs, and then two more regular movie seats. I was all ready to jump up and ask the people in those seats to move when I noticed that the man pushing the chair didn’t even look that way. He kept pushing the chair until he found three seats at the end of an aisle, then parked the wheelchair, and lifted the woman into his arms and helped her get settled into a movie theatre seat. The look in his eyes during all this was what fascinated me.
As the man bent to lift the woman, he gazed into her eyes with the purest love I have ever seen. A smile lit up his face, and the two of them seemed to be having a conversation though no words were spoken. But in addition to the love in his eyes, as he lifted the woman and prepared to move to the aisle and the seats he had chosen, there was a challenging look there also. A sort of “I dare you to make any unkind comments” look. Of course, the people who had been staring all turned away at that look in his eyes.
The man and the woman got settled into their seats, and soon were joined by another woman, a woman I figured to be the Mom to the daughter and Dad duo that was already seated. The movie was starting, and while Mom and Dad enjoyed popcorn and sodas, their beautiful daughter had a tube feeding. About halfway into the movie, I heard a strange sound, one I knew I head heard before. Then it dawned on me – it was the sound of a trach being suctioned. Many people turned to look at the family, but the three family members seemed oblivious. They were enjoying the movie just like everyone else.
When the movie ended, Dad once again scooped his daughter into his arms and gently helped her back into her wheelchair. All three of them were smiling and moving in a leisurely fashion to the exit door. Throughout all this, the coming and going, the enjoyment of the movie, the family time I witnessed, I had strange feelings, feelings I was having a tough time labeling. But as they family left the theatre, I figured it out. I was jealous. I want to be as comfortable as they seemed to be - comfortable with going and doing anything with their daughter with significant disabilities – comfortable enough not to worry what people say or how people stare. I’m getting closer to that, but I am definitely not there yet.
So the next time I feel uncomfortable when I am out with my children, when I feel like everyone is staring and judging my family, I am going to remember the two looks in that father’s eyes – pure, undeniable love and a bold challenge. We will do anything and everything we want to do as a family, and the strength that I witnessed in that movie theatre will be my example from now on.