The First Lady


As I’m bumbling around this morning, Mom asks me what I have planned for the day. I give a few examples of what I’m up to, how busy I am and then stop to ask why she’s asking since I can tell she’d like a favor. “I have an appointment with the First Lady in Panama Viejo,” I hear. “I think it would be interesting for you to see where the President lives. You haven’t been there before.”

I had not yet been to Panama Viejo and think meeting the First Lady would be a good use of my Wednesday morning so I take the bait. Plus, I’m always up for supporting Mom, especially when it also involves supporting her non-profit foundation which raises funds for the hearing impaired.I clean myself up by showering, dressing and putting on make-up and, I have to say, I do a really nice job! Have you ever seen before-and-after pics of Oprah with and without make-up? The difference is astonishing. Really. Well, I’m not so sure it’s a good thing, but my ability to transform myself from blah to wow is almost as impressive. Chances are you’ve never seen me without make-up so you don’t know exactly what I’m talking about. If you have then you do and I apologize.

Anyway, once I’m all dolled up, Mom and I head to her appointment along with one of her audiologists. I’m driving so I quickly figure out that we’re going to Casco Viejo, not Panama Viejo, a neighborhood with which I’m already familiar. I try to tell Mom that she promised something different and in her “I-told-you-so” voice she says “You never listen to anything I say.” Once we arrive at the Presidential area of Casco Viejo and announce ourselves we’re able to pass through the gate to the parking area. Since Mom runs early — a trait I greatly admire since most people, especially Panamanians, are unwilling to be early — we catch a small group of men assembling a wheelchair accessible ramp so that Mom can enter the building. One thing I’ve noticed about Panama is that you’re either screwed or in like Flynn; either there’s NO access for disabled people or you’re treated like royalty in an attempt to accommodate. Mom is great at getting royal treatment because, in addition to running early, she also calls ahead. If she lets folks know she’ll need special access they do everything in their power to make it happen before she arrives and once she’s there. The last time, after dropping off Mom at a special event, a cute, young guard escorted me to a free, underground garage I didn’t even know was there. Pretty awesome.

What is not awesome, however, is that our appointment is not in fact with the First Lady. Not sure if it’s my Spanish, my English or my selective hearing, but our meeting is with the wife of the ex-Minister of Health — a very lovely woman — who is in charge of the health-related issues for the First Lady. Mom explains that if the First Lady is available, she will attend the meeting. But she is not available and never arrives to the office overlooking the Bay where Mom proceeds to discuss her foundation’s good work and do the hard job of asking for dough. Fingers crossed that Mom’s appeal for both preventative, routine hearing screening for newborns and operating capital for her organization result in successful outcomes. Then maybe I can get support for my hearing as well.


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