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Derailed

We visited the NC Transportation Museum to see part of an exhibit with famous trains from all over the country. While there, I saw an older, almost elderly, man and woman pushing three wheelchaired adults. What I noticed lead me to several questions and many conclusions: It was an obvious struggle for them, especially the woman who was pushing one wheelchair. I assumed this was a group home on an outing. I also saw that one chair did not have foot rests. The person's feet were just dangling. I was glad the group home was out on a field trip, but I really thought they were understaffed and perhaps needed younger, more healthier looking personnel. It made me think of Ben's future and his care.

My curiosity got the better of me. When Ben and I caught up to them, I said hello and acknowledged that they must have a hard time pushing three wheelchairs with just two of them. I asked the man how come they were short-staffed. He looked at me slowly, very slowly. He looked at the woman and she looked back at him. As if in agreement, he answered me. He said, "It's just us." I asked, "This is a group home, right?"

The man again, looked at the woman slowly. Then he turned to me, "This is my family."

I got over my shock quickly. My brain kicked into high gear, and I saw what I had refused to see before: that all three adults were male and looked very much alike. The man and woman were the parents, these were their children.

Quickly, I recovered and asked if they had help from state agencies. They did not. They were from Pennsylvania, traveled all this way to see the trains. They loved the trains. The stilted conversation went on for a minute or two.

As soon as I was away, I cried and said a prayer for the family. I had to really think about what I said to this family and the assumptions I made, and my stupidity and brashness. Never did my brain imagine that this was a family on a vacation.

I wept for these three men, for the unfairness of it all, for people like me probing into private lives, for patience of others and the enormity of how life can surprise me every day and show me love in different ways.

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