Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Simply, Part Two:

The day at the center had been hectic.  Four new families had been admitted to the program, and some of them required additional services.  One young mother had no idea how she was going to pay for inoculations for her school age son.  We set her up with an appointment at a nearby clinic, and even gave her some further information on state funded healthcare.  Another family was looking for someone to do some low cost repairs on the home they'd just leased from a notorious slumlord.  So much need.  It still boggled my mind how in this day and age, entire families can be displaced, uprooted, relegated to utter poverty without the cataclysmic shock of some natural disaster.  These days, poverty comes at you as you simply go about your day, trying your best.  One year you're celebrating Christmas, piling gifts up under the tree; the next year Christmas dawns the same as any other day in your lean-to under a bridge. 

As I headed to the shower, Scott drew my attention to the stack of blankets piled by the closet door.  I had promised Olivia we would drop them off at the SPCA in the morning, after I'd donated at the blood drive.  He offered to put them in my car, and I continued on.  Arriving upstairs, I realized Olivia was only in the first twenty minutes of her shower (how much do little people have to wash?!), so I hopped on the computer to check the latest news.  I've discovered that, as I age, I've become my mother.  I begin by quickly scanning the headlines, then move on to the important stuff -- the Obits.

Her familiar face smiled at me from the screen -- no black holes, no yellow shingles -- a beautiful, white, young smile; the smile of someone healthy and happy.  Immediately I began to recall the past few weeks; when was the last time I had seen her?  When was the last time I'd even questioned whether she was there?  Aside from her dilapidated appearance, she'd become as insignificant to me as a telephone landline -- another expense, and even sort of a bother while it's there, but not much of a liability when its gone.

The headline proclaimed, "Local Socialite and Philanthropist Dead at 73."  Socialite? Philanthropist?  I read on.  The life this woman had lead was nothing short of amazing!  She had earned numerous degrees, had served in the Peace Corps, and even met the English Prime Minister.  She'd become the head nurse at a prominent hospital, held positions of leadership in several local organizations, served on the school board, and received over a dozen awards for her equestrian skills.  She and her husband were still on the books as the largest donors of a local children's center, and together they had founded a commemorative military museum which had become a benchmark for smaller museums everywhere.

My mind reeled from the news -- not simply the news of her passing, I mean, let's not sugar coat this -- I hadn't even noticed her missing.  But, how?  What had happened?  And how did such a woman wind up here, in a program for the impoverished?  Why did I never know who she was?  She'd once had it all; she'd been someone who, in her abundance, had helped others.  To me she'd been another client on a far too long list.  She'd had love and family, talent and -- it seemed -- ceaseless energy.  To me she was destitute, and alone, with little to offer, and struggling with every breath.  To the local paper she was "Local Socialite and Philanthropist;" to me she was simply Mrs. M.
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