I remember the day I lost my last illusions about the possibility of bravely shouldering one's own load and facing life's challenges using only one's own brains, initiative and hard work.
It was a hot summer's day and spouse and I were taking advantage of our vacation to repaint our spare room when the phone rang. It was Mary  calling from a hospital in a city 4 hours drive away. Just a short while before she had gone to the ER after she could no longer bear the excruciating pains in her abdomen. But that wasn't why she called me. The problem was that she was expecting her young son, John, back home from camp that evening. Acquaintances (whose son had been at the same camp) had already started out on the long ride from the big city to the camp to pick up both boys. They knew she was ill and would warn her son but Mary didn't know them well enough to ask them to take John into their home. Nor was he close enough to them to make that a reasonable request. All Mary cared about at that moment was that someone in the family would be there to greet her son when he arrived back home, tired, from his first long time away from his mother.
So spouse and I put down the paint brushes, got into the car and drove non-stop to the big city. We rushed to the hospital, picked up her keys and got to her apartment before John got home. To this day I remember the look on his face as the elevator door opened and he saw someone he knew and trusted waiting for him. He ran down the hallway and I picked him up and told him "Mommy will be okay. Mommy misses you and we will all go to see her tomorrow."
Mary could not have planned for her illness. Nothing she could have done would have prevented it. But Mary did the smartest, most rational thing she could do. She relied on love and family loyalty.
No one changes their own diapers.
 It doesn't matter exactly who Mary was. She was a
relative of mine and her name wasn't Mary.↩
 Not his real name. ↩
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