When God wants to speak and deal with us, He does not avail himself of an angel but of parents, or the pastor, or of our neighbor.
~ Martin Luther
I could write seventeen more posts about the trip to my dad’s – about Brooke and the dogs. About sadness and about feeling overwhelmed. About my tremendous pride in Katie and about my mixed feelings about asking so much of her. About the incredible swirl of love, strength, grace and humor that is my ninety year-old Grandma. About the profound relief of being in my father’s house. About the bittersweet release of allowing myself to feel small.
But I dare say I might come close to drowning in any one of them. So, in the interest of self-preservation, I’ve decided instead to share a story from our ride down to New York.
On Saturday afternoon, we met my mom and her husband for lunch at a restaurant near their home in Southern Connecticut. We arrived before they did and found the restaurant far more crowded than we would have liked.
As they set up our table, I took the girls to the ladies room. Brooke tensed up as we walked through the crowded dining room. She asked for her iPod, which I assured her she would get just as soon as we got back to the table.
The restaurant’s tile floors did nothing to dull the clang and clatter of plates and silverware, nor the chirping and chattering of diners enjoying one another’s company. The open kitchen only added to the level of chaos in the room.
By the time we got into the bathroom, Brooke was on high alert.
The three of us crowded into a stall together. As Katie relieved herself, Brooke’s hands shot up to her ears. “No flushing!” she yelled. She said it again and again. “No flushing! It won’t flush!”
I assured her that the toilet would not flush until we were ready for it to. I pointed to the manual flusher, explaining that this was not a toilet that ‘knew how to flush itself’. Katie promised her that she could leave the stall when we were all done and that she would stay behind to flush.
“No flushing,” Brooke said again and again as she took her turn on the toilet. She balanced on the edge of the seat, attempting to bury her ears in her arms. “It won’t flush,” she repeated.
As I took my turn, Brooke cowered in the corner as far as she could get from the toilet, her hands planted firmly over her ears. “It won’t flush,” she said for the twentieth odd time. “Katie will flush it LATER.”
As I was finishing up, I heard a voice from behind Brooke. It was coming from the other side of the wall dividing the stalls. “Excuse me,” said the voice, “I was about to flush. Would you like me to wait?”
I could have sworn it was the voice of an angel.
I answered that I’d really appreciate it if she could wait just a moment until I could scoot Brooke out of the stall. Standing where she was, she would have been terrified had another toilet flushed from right behind her head. I hadn’t even thought of it.
Once we were a safe distance from the stall, I called out to Katie and the woman and both toilets flushed. As we made our way to the sinks I stammered, “Thank you so much. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your thoughtfulness.”
We spoke to each other in the mirror as we washed our hands. She looked to be in her late fifties. Her eyes were warm and kind. She explained that when her daughter was four, she’d gotten locked in a bathroom stall and was subsequently terrified of public restrooms. She may have gotten it from a different angle, but she got it. That was all that mattered.
It was all I could do not to hug her as we bid each other a good day and went our separate ways.
Once in a while, we cross paths with exactly the right person at exactly the right moment. Someone who extends a hand, or a smile, or an offer to wait to flush a damn toilet. I’ve come to see those people as everyday angels. And the more I’ve started to look, the more I’ve noticed that they are everywhere I turn.
Even in the bathroom.