Brakes? What Brakes?

Mom and Bill and I actually went out to dinner the other night.  It’s the first time Mom’s been out to eat in over a year.  It’s hard for her to get around with her walker, plus she says they always serve too much food for her and it’s a waste of money.  But my brother and his wife sent Mom a gift card from an Italian restaurant chain for Christmas and, instead of re-gifting it, which has been her habit in the past, she asked if we wanted to go out to eat.  It was a rare and exhausting experience for all three of us.

As we enter through the front door, we were greeted with the enticing aroma of garlic and marinara sauce and a perky “Welcome” from the perkier teen-something hostess.  We announced we had three for dinner.  Ms. Perky, our barely post-pubescent hostess, decided that since we had an elderly lady with a walker in our party, it would be, oh, like, you know, so much fun to seat us all the way in the back of the restaurant, which is housed in a relatively large building.  In fact, I’m sure there are warehouses that have less square footage.  But Mom gamely pushed her pink walker, following Ms. Perky through the place.  As we wound between aisles, Mom managed to clip the edges of each table, bump into the side of a booth as we rounded a corner, and stumble once before finally coming to rest at our little four-top, which was in the middle of a wide aisle surrounded by other tables and booths.  As we were seated, I noticed that they had put us in that special place in restaurants where all the families with infants and small screaming children were also seated.  Oh joy.

We placed our order for drinks and dinner and eventually proceeded to enjoy a meal out, just like normal grownups do.  We carried on a heady conversation  about how Mom wants to be cremated and where she wants to be sprinkled, and how Vanna White’s hair is just getting waaay too long, and did we notice the open air kitchen and that it sure had a lot of pots and pans and people in it cooking and banging around.  We had to shout most of the time because of the crying and screaming coming from several of the family tables.

The mother, grandmother, pre-teen, two year old and under six-months infant sitting behind Bill started out quietly enough.  They gave the toddler a glass of water and several packets of sugar to play with.  The child was very happy ripping open the little paper envelope, pouring the sugar into the cup and stirring it around with a spoon.  That is until the sugar packets were all emptied and strewn on the floor around his booster-seated chair and he decided to drink the contents of the cup.  Mom, realizing the damper this would put on anything resembling bedtime, snatched the cup away.  The two year old, who was definitely not mature beyond his years, proceeded to scream at decibel levels that were almost outside the range of human hearing – but not quite.   This in turn set off the infant, which then triggered a sympathetic outcry from the table behind me, which contained four children, none of whom were school age.  Needless to say, the toddler got his sugar water back, the infant had a bottle of formula jammed into his mouth and the four kids next door eventually settled down.  I think I overheard promises of Dairy Queen in their future.

With the wine drunk, the entree eaten and no room for dessert because Mom had to have her Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream when we got home, we plopped down the gift card and made a hasty retreat out the door and into the cool but silent evening – at which point Mom almost drove her walker off the curb like a lemming off a cliff.  Bill grabbed her by the back of her sweater to keep her from plunging headlong onto the asphalt parking lot and steered her back on course along the sidewalk toward our car, parked half a dozen spaces away in a handicapped spot.  Unfortunately, we didn’t anticipate the downward dip in the walkway as we watched her careen in the direction of the car.  I was in front, so I pushed against the walker to slow her forward momentum while Bill yelled from the rear, “Squeeze the brakes!  Squeeze the brakes!”

I got her stopped in front of our car just as Bill came up behind us.  “Mom,” he yelled in exasperation.  “Why didn’t you use the brakes on this thing.”

“Because they’re just for when you’re stopped to keep it from rolling away,” she explained.

“No, they’re not,” he said with a snort.  “It’s like a bike.  You don’t just use the brakes after you stopped when you ride a bike do you?  You use them to slow down too.”

“No, but I’m not riding this thing.  I’m pushing it,” she said as she rolled down the handicapped ramp to the back door of our little car.  “So I just use the brakes when I don’t want to push it anymore.”

I think it’ll be awhile before we have another family fun evening out.


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