After many days of hibernation, today seemed promising: for the first time, the outside thermometer registered in the above zero range. My dad and I were going to the mall: To pick up a winter jacket. For him. And to find some seriously safe winter boots – with tread. For him. Sometimes, a daughter will, after many days of acceptable excuses, reluctantly venture into the still-awful (but just bearable) cold to do the right thing. Even if it’s cold with a chance of teardrops.
After the jacket was sent back for reasons of zipper-dysfunction, and after we deemed the lines of boot-seekers too long, we decided to look elsewhere in the mall. But as we were making our way out of the department store and into one of the mall’s many ‘arteries’ (passages), discomfort took a wrong turn.
I was heading for a full-tilt, pain-in-my-sacrum meltdown, when I spied with my little eye a cushioned (amen!) faux-leather divan set (complete with faux lamps, faux plants and, as far it mattered to me, faux people). I went straight for the square-shaped one that was blessedly unoccupied.
A group of young, blonde and extremely talkative women, gathered in the same mid-mall fake lounge were inexplicably overdressed – in black suede stilettos and black sleeveless, halter dresses. A few pairs of UGG boots, shiny handbags and parkas were stashed to the side.
And then there was me: Fully clothed, wool-hatted, gloved and decidedly and unfashionably hiking-booted (yes, the same hiking boots that caused me such discomfort, blisters and the hint of a broken toenail at the outset of my Camino walk); and without a smidgen of self-consciousness or concern for the others taking their mid-shopping rest, I splayed myself, face down, on the settee, my legs sticking out behind me into the wide empty corridor.
Undoubtedly, I was quite the sight. Accompanied, I assume, with the requisite stares of passersby. Which is good enough reason to have sunk my face into the nubby brown fabric. And to squelch the moans and whines threatening to escape from my mouth.
Five or ten minutes later, slowly resurfacing from my pain coma, I managed to raise my head. The Taylor Swift wannabes were flicking their hair, looking at their nails, talking into their phones, posing and posing and posing. It was quite the sight.
My dad, who himself had settled comfortably onto a seat nearby asked if I felt better. I knew that my chances of recovery were much higher if we could actually get out of the mall. I began to limp away, with my hand on my backside… after which my dad stood up and limped too, his leg (knee? ankle?) pain suddenly acting up. He grimaced beside me. We must have been quite the sight.
A few quick stops later, we hobbled to the car. I slid in, lay back, shivered in the unheated space and grasped for sanity straws. My dad entered, shut the door and groaned. Thirty years between us and this, this pain, was now our new and common language. He placed his hand on mine, took a deep breath and said: You’re my guide. You’re my inspiration. When I think of you (what you go through), I don’t feel the pain anymore.
He started to drive out of the parking lot, to the sounds of honking, doors banging and steering wheels creaking. It was already dusk, shortly after 4:30 (!), and we were soon enveloped by a thickening, blue-steel-grey. Then, as if he were channeling Pete Seeger (still alive & well), my dad began to sing: We shall overcome. We shall overcome. We shall overcome one daaaaaayyyy…
Maybe because of the escalating darkness outside, or the host on talk radio whose voice competed with his, my dad didn’t hear sniffles or notice that tears were running down my face.