In a motorized wheelchair, she was fiddling with the controls, trying to exit an entrance not very friendly to her transportation.
I was going in and reached out to hold the door open for her.
She smiled, blue eyes behind horn-rimmed glasses meeting mine for a fleeting second.
“Thank you,” she said, turning the chair toward the parking lot.
She was quickly out of sight, quickly out of mind.
But not for long.
An hour or so later, we met again. This time at the other end of Broadway, heading into Miller’s Antiques, a squat brick building at the foot of the hill on the town’s main street.
I spoke, saying “You sure get around, don’t you?”
There was a touch of a smile as she tapped the arm of the chair …
“Nobody would ever wish to be in one of these things, but it gives me so much freedom.”
Declining help, she headed for the rear entrance, which, she said, was easier for her. That told me she was no stranger to Miller’s.
Again, she was quickly out of sight, quickly out of mind.
And I returned to my usual thing when traveling with the blonde, stopping wherever there’s an antique sign. In the truck, I slid Willie into the stereo and opened my book.
But for some reason, the lady in the wheelchair wouldn’t go away. One of the “givens” of what I do kept running through my mind: “Everybody has a story.”
I headed inside, pen and pad in hand, caught up with her in front of a display case offering dishes … plates, cups, saucers, wine glasses.
Gracefully, she agreed that …
“Everybody has a story to tell, some have more than one.”
The part of her story leading to the wheelchair is one. In the beginning …
“I knew when I was in high school, maybe when I was 13, that I wanted to be in a service profession, in something helping people. I’m a nurse, a RN.”
Which means she didn’t need a doctor to tell her she had multiple sclerosis nibbling at her body.
“Before the doctors, I had already diagnosed myself. I knew I had one of three things. I knew I didn’t want any one of them. I was filled with fear, it was so scary. I knew all the stages of MS. In some you become totally dependent.”
Obviously, she is not. But it has not been easy.
“One of the best ways I define myself is that I am a struggling Christian.
“I say that because it doesn’t come easy for me. I do believe. I have a very strong faith.
“But I also believe Satan gets to all of us in different ways. He worked a number on me … and he works in different ways. He’s smart.
“I was very, very scared about what was going to happen to me. I loved my profession, still do, and I miss it.”
I’m not sure when the MS divorced her from her profession, but she has been in the wheelchair for six years.
Thing is, she has blessings to count, one is a daughter from a marriage that is, like her nursing, in the past.
“I am very blessed. I have a daughter, Anne Rebecca — she’s 29 — and is one of the best human beings I know. She’s a very caring person.”
Later, sitting in the truck and reading my notes, there came a humming in my mind …
Like daughter, like mother … The mother, Kathy Jo Treiber of Lebanon, O., Class of ’69, Vandelia-Butler High School, Vandelia, O., is a piece of work and has more stories to tell than I have room for here.
I hate that … but I sure did like her.
George Smith can be reached at 256-239-5286 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org