“Fine, I’ll ride in the stupid wheelchair.” Mom had been arguing with us for several minutes but there was just no other way. The television had long been muted. Watching another stupid episode of our favorite sitcom was just an excuse to bring her up to the third floor and hang out with us. But what we really wanted was to spend time with her.
“It’s either that or miss my graduation,” I said. “There is no way you’re going to be able to walk all the way from the car to the auditorium and then find a seat.”
“Look on the bright side,” Brandon pointed out. “We’ll get VIP seating.”
“I don’t like to feel handicapped.”
“Are you seriously pouting, Mom?”
“Lots of people are handicapped their whole life,” Brandon said.
“I feel so dependent on everyone all the time. I can hardly walk to the bathroom on my own and I need help getting up and down the stairs.”
“I seriously don’t mind carrying you.” Brandon held out his arm like a bodybuilder, grinning over at me. “I knew these guns would come in handy someday.”
I forced myself to stop staring at his muscles and focus my attention on mom. I looked around our modest living room. “I’m glad for some normalcy. I hate sleeping up here all by myself every night.”
“Yeah right.” Mom pushed my shoulder playfully. “Don’t think for a minute I don’t feel you climb into bed with me every night.”
“You do?” Brandon threw his head back and laughed.
“It’s lonely up here, and kinda scary.”
“Who’s pouting now?” Mom asked.
“If you don’t want me to, I won’t come down anymore.” I pulled at the thread on my old frumpy sweater.
“Nonsense.” Mom held out her arms. “Come here.”
I snuggled into her arms and let her hold me, knowing it wouldn’t be more than a few weeks or months before she wouldn’t be around anymore. I was going to treasure every moment I had with her.
That night I didn’t make any pretense about coming down to her bedroom. I got completely ready for bed and tiptoed downstairs past all the guest rooms on the second floor and climbed into bed with my mommy before she even fell asleep.
“You were right, this was a good idea,” Mom said. “I’m glad you guys talked me into it.”
“She admits I was right. Should I record this moment to memorialize it forever?”
She reached over her shoulder and patted my hand where it rested on the handle of her wheelchair. She’d resigned to using a small Amigo for getting around the lower level of the house and it had made her life a lot easier. But a small wheelchair that folded into the trunk was more practical in the auditorium.
I pushed her forward to where the handicapped accessible area was roped off, and she smiled lightly at the other people around her, probably noting that most people were forty years older than her. I was careful not to point that out.
“She said she’d be entering from the south entrance, so we should have a perfect vantage point from here.” I glanced around at the organized chaos of people finding seats, the concert band members warming up their instruments, the faculty and staff rushing around to make sure everything was perfect.
The twins’ mom came to sit on Mom’s other side. It was a nice gesture considering she had no other reason to be down here besides sitting close to the woman who had been a kindred spirit for years.
“This is it,” Sharon said. “Our baby girls are all grown up.”
“I’m so glad to be here to watch.” Mom reached out to hold her old friend’s hand. “Where are Derrick and the boys?”
“Sitting way up there.” Sharon pointed high in the auditorium to where her husband and sons were settling in on a hard bleacher. “Lucky for us, we get to sit down here in the squishy seats.”
“I know, right?” I reached across the front of Mom’s wheelchair and held out my arm. “By the way, I don’t think we’ve been formally introduced. I’m Brandon.”
“I’ve heard all about you for almost a year.” Sharon chuckled. “I’m surprised none of our girls have been able to convince you to take them on a date yet. Certainly not for lack of trying, or so I’ve heard.”
I felt my face grow warm and I pulled at my collar. “Is it hot in here?”
Sharon and Mom laughed at me and I grinned.
“Your daughters are beautiful and very sweet, but I told Sammy a long time ago there was no way I could possibly date either of them. How would I ever be able to choose?”
“They’re going to have to find identical twins,” Mom said, chuckling.
“That’s what I said.”
“I’m sure when they’re older they’ll figure it out,” Sharon said.
“Oh, they’re starting!” Mom grabbed my hand when the music shifted.
We settled in for the very long processional and turned completely in our chairs, hoping to catch a glimpse of Sammy as she came in the door.
My heart dropped when I saw who was escorting her. Charlie. Really? Could she dig a knife any deeper into my stomach?
The twins were right behind her, escorting each other. Why couldn’t Sammy have chosen a girl to join arms with? Why did she have to choose the guy who was my rival for her affection?
When she came around the corner, we locked eyes and she didn’t look away. Not withstanding she had her hand draped through the crook of Charlie’s arm, I knew she would end up with me by her side someday. I knew it in the way she smiled softly at me and her cheeks turned a lovely shade of pink. She cared about me whether she admitted it or not.
After almost a full thirty seconds, she broke eye contact enough to shift her gaze to the woman by my side, and Mom squeezed my hand.
I could feel her light sobs as her body leaned against mine and her head eventually rested on my shoulder. She made no pretense of wiping her eyes with a tissue as she watched her daughter proceed to her chair.
After several boring speeches and multiple awards for various scholarships and top-ten designations, it was finally time to watch the seniors walk across the stage and receive their diplomas.
More sobs and tears from the woman to my side as Samantha’s name was called. I reached down into Mom’s bag and handed her another tissue, discretely pulling one more out of the packet for myself.
My Sammy was finally a high school graduate. Maybe now she’d consider herself old enough to admit her feelings for me. I’d been patient and would continue to be patient until she was ready.
“Thank you for bringing me here,” Mom said. “It means the world to me.”
“You and Sammy mean the world to me.” We gripped each other’s hands as we watched the recessional and Mom shifted the little bouquet of freshly cut flowers from our garden that rested on her lap. I wondered if I could discretely be the one to hand them to Sammy when the time came.
Running To You
Click here to read the next chapter in my work-in-progress!