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A Wheelchair, mortar and pestle, and a hug

The other day I was at the park with the kids and ran into a neighbor and her 2-year-old. We struck up a pleasant swing-set conversation. About mid-way through our talk of neighborhood events and happenings, M, who had gone down the slides a few times, came running up to us. She stopped, faced our neighbor, and randomly (loudly) declares, "My Khun Yai is in a wheelchair!"

My neighbor looked at M in a moment of awkward silence, but quickly recovered, pulling from her bag of talking-to-preschoolers tricks the Repeat What They Say card.

"Oh, your grandma? And, she's in a wheelchair?"

"Yes!" M answered proudly. And, with a little fairy-dance twirl, she was off. There I sat, wondering if I should explain further or leave the word “wheelchair” -- always accompanied by its best friends “sad” and “tragic” -- alone. And, so I did. No need to go into a lengthy explanation about my mother's 30-year struggle with a neurodegenerative disease that has methodically and heartlessly stripped her of her ability to speak, walk, and feed and bathe herself. No. No need to ruin a perfectly beautiful spring day and pleasant small talk with such…heaviness.

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