Saturday, November 19, 2016
A Day at the Beach
The Kona coast of the big island of Hawaii is beautiful, as are most areas of our fiftieth state. But unlike most of the beaches on the other islands, those on that west coast of Hawaii are more rugged. There is, of course, plenty of white sand on most of the ocean front strips, but many of the beaches have boulder sized sharp, jagged remnants of long past volcanic eruptions. One needs to look before stepping.
On our last full day of vacation, tired of planned activity we found a small piece of beach upon which to relax. We planted ourselves about midway between the sandy entrance and the Pacific.
I had just come out of the water, and was headed back to our blanket, when I saw a young woman negotiating her way down the fairly steep slope towards the ocean, pushing a wheelchair with a man of about her age in it. The young man was strapped into the chair, and was obviously almost totally disabled. Probably quadriplegic.
As she carefully made her way to the shore, I sensed she could use a little help, and offered assistance. “Oh, thanks, but I’ve got it.” And she did. When she was near the spot on the beach she wanted, she untied the wheelchair bound man, faced him, and lifted him onto his feet. As she supported his full weight with one arm around his waist, she positioned and locked the wheels of the chair, then gently, ever so gently, placed the young man into it and secured him.
I began to wonder about these two young people. The woman reminded me of my high school cheerleaders. Petite, blond, and full of energy…the type, I recalled, who would only date star athletes and generally walked around just looking cute.
My first thought was that she must have been a care giver. Certainly she knew how to deal with a wheelchair, lift someone a foot taller than herself, and do all the physical things required.
In a few minutes, the woman left the side of the chair, and ran out into the surf, diving, jumping, swimming and splashing.
She remained in the water for only a few minutes, and returned to the wheelchair. She then put her arms around the “patient,” hugged and then kissed him several times. This was more than a professional relationship. This was a couple. My mind began a race with my preconceptions. Maybe he was injured after they met…possibly a war veteran. And she was sticking by him out of loyalty. But their silent interplay indicated far more than loyalty. It was apparent that there was devotion and love between the two. “Cheerleader, where is the football captain? Why is not my stereotype of your superficiality in this scene? Or is he a wealthy soon to be deceased man whose family has promised you a fortune?”
None of that rang true, and I finally realized I was tuning into some very unpleasant and bigoted thoughts. Maybe, just maybe, what I was witnessing was what it appeared to be. A bit of shame hit me.
In an hour or so, the young couple was preparing to leave. The exit would be up hill. She lifted him, and was having a little difficulty in repositioning the wheelchair. This time she allowed me to help. When he was again in the chair, he looked up. “Thanks.” She smiled and they were gone. I have mulled that afternoon many times. I still wonder about those two. And I think some self examination is in order as well.