what I write about
she has fallen and now she is awake
I met Wolfman for lunch this week, at the shopping centre next to his work. BunBun was as cute as usual and we garnered a fair few ‘oh how adorable! type comments. We sat down and began to eat – I got myself a roast vegetable panini so I could pick out some of the pumpkin to feed BunBun, since she’s starting solids. As I sat there, BunBun squirming on my lap, pumpkin smearing my jeans, I looked at the woman across from me. She too was feeding someone, far more expertly than I, far more prepared. She had a giant bib for starters.
I got smiles from everyone walking past. Their eyes slid over her in the familiar ‘see-me-not’ gaze.
I was feeding a child, she was feeding an elder. Eventually Wolfman tired of watching me stuff things up and took over, feeding our daughter with far less mess. He got even more smiles, occasional laughs. My eyes met the woman across from us, she smiled at us too. I smiled back, and smiled at the woman she was with. They’d finished up and were packing away lunch. I felt obscurely sad. I was being silently congratulated (and Wolfman even moreso) for doing my duty as a parent. For teaching our daughter the joy of food – textures and tastes and the how of it all. People smiled at us. Our families volunteered to help. People were overjoyed at pictures.
Yet this woman, performing the same actions, the same duty, was socially isolated. Was offered nothing, not even a smile. Her duty was no less than mine, probably more. I would mourn the loss of my mother’s ability to eat, to feed herself. I do not mourn BunBun’s inability. She has the potential to learn. I mourn nothing but the fleeting days of babyhood when I feed our daughter. Yet I receive so much more support. I am not ignored by the community. I am offered breaks and relief. This woman, presumably mourning far more than I, under far more pressure, doing a much more difficult job (physically and probably emotionally), gets nothing.
My duty is considered a gift, hers a burden. Yet I receive the support?