My family and I were having our sporadic “pay-it-forward” conversation. As awful as I sound in print, I actually try to accomplish a few nice things, unprompted, at least once a week. I mean month. I mean year.
Yeah, it’s yearly.
As I was encouraging my kids to always do something kind toward someone who truly needs a break, my son remarked, “You talk a good game, Maria, but remember when you only did half a pay-it-forward last year?”
I frowned and pursed my lips.
Sigh. He was right.
Last January, I took my dogs to their “salon” for the privilege of spending more money on their matted, dirty hair than I’ve spent on my own matted, dirty hair in a decade. I noticed an elderly woman outside, looking cold and upset; she had missed her bus. I said, “Listen, if you think I look trustworthy enough (and to be honest, I didn’t, with mismatched mittens and crusty smears of dog saliva across my chest) and wouldn’t mind driving with a stranger, I’d be happy to give you a ride.”
We regarded each other warily, because, underneath her fur hat, galoshes and Polident, I suppose she could’ve been a carjacker, but I assumed she wouldn’t get far with that walker, even with the wheels. She looked me over from the top of my son’s borrowed slouchy hat that looks cool on him and just hobo non-chic on me, to the bottom of my slush-stained sweatpants, and weighed the consequences of frostbite vs. a crazed mother and two nasty, filthy, mouthy dogs. The threat of hypothermia won out and off we sped.
When I returned home, I told my husband the story. I felt satisfied that I successfully completed my yearly good deed. He stared with the same horrified expression he bestowed upon me when he discovered I sold his wedding band on eBay: “You didn’t take that poor woman all the way home? You took her to another bus stop? In this weather?!”
I sputtered: “She only asked to go to the bus stop!”
He concluded: “You did half a good deed! Half! Poor lady probably lost a toe by now. Nice job, Mother Teresa!”
As everyone relishes the retelling of this story, I always feel sick to my stomach and wonder where that poor woman is now. And it makes me ponder my own future.
“Kids, who’s going to take care of me when I get old(er) and senile? When I need my supply of Depends refilled? When I need a sponge bath?”
My younger son asked: “Well, just how much more crazy do you plan to get?”
“Well, based on genetics, crazier …”
He suggested that maybe they can hire someone to take care of me, you know, like a lawn service?
Apparently, they believe I’ll require weeding and pesticide treatments every third week during the summer months.
I wanted to be reassured that they’ll never let me miss a bus, ride with strangers, or let me leave the house sporting rubber boots over my bedroom slippers.
This is how it ends up. You give your whole life to these little parasites and they hire a babysitter to care for you when you can’t zip your own pants.
I know what they’re thinking.
They’re thinking that payback’s a bitch.
Here’s what they don’t know: No inheritance is even worse. That’s less than half of a good deed right there.
Maria Jiunta Heck of West Pittston is a mother of three, a librarian and a business owner who lives to dissect the minutiae of life.