Assisted Living – A Short Story

She unfolded herself from the Focus, stood beside it, and stretched.

He was already at the cart corral, yanking two carts apart.

She smiled and shook her head. The carts didn’t stand a chance.

He came back triumphant.

Shopping Carts

“Ready?” she asked.

“Yup!” He took off, skipping as he pushed.

She tightened her abs and followed behind. Her mandatory running shoes for shopping days propelled her along.

He wasn’t supposed to be so quick. They said coordination would be a problem for him.

They neared the traffic lane in front of the store. He stopped on a dime. She bumped into him.


He looked over his shoulder and beamed. Then he giggled. “You’re supposed to watch where you’re going.”

The laughter bubbled in her belly. He was right. Again.


She emptied her cart onto the conveyor. He did his part and put up the bread. Soft things, no glass, he had learned.

He held out his hands to her, grabbing at the air, doing the potty dance. But he didn’t have to go potty. She knew what he wanted.

She handed over her purse. He put it around his neck like a necklace.

The bag dangled in front of him until he stilled it between his beefy hands. He stared down at it, ever the sentinel over her important belongings.

The line moved forward. The cashier rang up their weekly haul.

She watched him watch. His almond eyes glowed. He loved to see the numbers change with every beep.

She looked at her purse strap across the back of his neck and thought of choking hazards. And all the toys she had refused him. The string is too long. He might get that caught the wrong way. And he might have.

She remembered the midnight checks. Was he stuck under his blankets? Had he tangled himself dangerously?

He was a man now. He knew about risks and taking chances. She had taught him, hammered it into him. He knew how to carry her purse securely, and safely. Better than over his shoulder, he had explained. It couldn’t fall. No one could sneak it away from him.

He held it out to her. She reached in for her wallet and paid.

Time to gallop. Skip to the store, gallop to the car.


“Would you do it all again?” her sister asked. “If you knew then what you know now?”

“It’s not like I had a choice.” She watched him, not her sister. He led the line of ten-year-old party goers in what was likely the most convoluted and difficult route a Follow-the-Leader game had ever seen.

God gives good gifts.

“I mean the schools, the help you could’ve had.”

“I don’t think it would’ve been any easier. Just different.”

God gives good gifts.
God gives good gifts.

“Seriously? You’ve had him with you twenty-four seven. Homeschooling, social skills, exercise, everything. They offered you that school. You would’ve still had him on weekends. Even the day school would’ve given you a break some.”

She shrugged. “I’m not sure it was a break I needed.”

“So you would.”

“Would what?”

“Do it again.”

“Yeah. I would.”

“What about now? He’s so big. And really, you’ve done an amazing job with him. He’d do well in assisted living.”

“Maybe someday. It’s up to him.”

“You know I love you.” Her sister reached across the table and took her hand.

She turned her hand palm up and held on. Her eyes found her sister’s.

“And I love him.”

“I know.”

“I admire you so much. I just don’t know how you do it. Sometimes I worry about you. And him, his future. Y’know?”

“No need to worry. God is faithful. He’s taken care of us this long. He’s not about to stop now.”

“But what about assisted living? Like, just to prepare for it?”

“When the time comes. For now, I’m the one in assisted living.”

“You do work hard. You do the jobs of three people.”

She cracked a smile. “No. I mean I’m the resident. He’s my caretaker.”

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