Rose Has a New Walker
We buy it online. She got her old one, standard issue gray aluminum, at the hospital after she fell at Susie's house last summer. It's a man's walker, and she holds her elbows out like bent wings when she grasps the handles. It's too wide for her. I toss out the question one day, if you had a new walker what color would you choose. Blue, she says, just like that. I order blue. When it comes, we connect the hand brakes, attach the basket and the seat, pull the plastic off the wheels. Can I return it, Rose says. Absolutely not, I tell her. It's from the Internet. She feels better knowing there's no choice. But it's always good to try again. Maybe I won't need it. I ride the exercise bike now. And in Chi Gong class I stand up longer. Before I did the exercises from the chair. Anyway, it's not blue. I think it's black. [End Page 84] So for that we'll return it? It's navy. Under the lamp we compromise on navy black. I tell her to try the seat. But always remember To press the hand brakes when you sit down. It's like the brakes on a bike. She doesn't get it. She never rode a bike, she says, she roller skated everywhere, to the botanical conservatory, to the library. She tightened the skates with a key she wore around her neck. When they broke, and that was often, her father would fix them, a tragedy you kids never met him. I ask Rose to push the walker in the hall. She can't help smiling; stately, royal she glides like the King's barge down the Thames. The waters part before her; I hear Handel's music. It's nice, she says. But what should I do with the old one. A shame to waste it. It'll be a spare, I say. Maybe we'll take it in the car when we go out. Remember when Daddy taught me how to ride, I say. Running beside me, his hand on the fender and then letting go. Of course I remember, she says, he taught all of you. And then I was free to pedal around the block, up to the drug store, turn right, turn right again, over and over, centrifugally pulled by the gravity of home.
Karen Mandell's novel Repairs and Alterations deals with a family's secrets concerning the Holocaust. Her novel Tumbling Down concerns the breakup of a family and their attempts at reconciliation, with the help of several historical figures who make their way into the 21st century. She won the Poetry Society of America/Oil of Olay Contest in 2004 and second place in the Muriel Craft Bailey Contest through the Comstock Review. She lives in Needham Massachusetts with her husband, Fred, an artist, and they're extremely grateful to watch the ways in which their children's lives unfold.