During a visit to another non-for-profit, the director shared that there were 3 things most important in her world: her husband, her faith, and her calling. She was in a workshop recently in which was told to envision a life first without her husband, and then without her faith as well. With great effort she swallowed and told us, “Did you know that Mother Theresa lost her faith? But she still had her call.”
I ate applesauce at the free community drop-in lunch along with other ladies from the neighborhood. One of them brought her three year old granddaughter with an adjective for a name, which we all smiled about and shared a quick glance to acknowledge an unspoken agreement that her name alone spoke many words left for a negative interpretation. That three year old, so bashfully quiet, waving subtly back to me, answering “apples” for her favorite vegetable, probably not a coincidence that she watched me just twenty minutes ago slice up applies in the kitchen for the applesauce I was making as she played with the alphabet magnets on the kitchen door.
Loneliness and laundry
I carried her laundry basket downstairs as she hauled her nine day old baby boy, mentioning that the baby slept just fine but she did not. This young homeless mom, now with her fourth child, just lost her mom to cancer only two months ago. She told me that she just got off the phone with her grandmother who is only now coming to terms with her daughter’s untimely death and called to invite her and the baby over for a family gathering. She didn’t think she wanted to go because all she could envision is the look of the “suitcase” the coroner carried her mother away in and didn’t want to be reminded of the urn with her mother’s ashes. I tried persuasion: “I’m sure they can’t wait to see him (her newborn)” as I wiggled his little foot. Nonchalantly she responded with “they didn’t even call to check up on me when I was in labor, so no, I’m not worried what they think about him.” The only thing I could think to say was a disclosure about my own mother’s untimely death 7 years ago and how I refused to recover her ashes from the funeral home until only just last week. Why did I share that? I hope I wasn’t “one-uping” her. I just didn’t know what to say, again responding to the uncomfortable silence.
Wanting a place
I was able to keep quiet the entire discussion group hour, despite having the occasional urge to disagree with the woman who kept referring to herself as weird. I wanted to tell her how much I admired her for her beautiful fluency in verbal language, so poetic in her description of the wonders and fondness of this shelter and this neighborhood, and how all she wanted to do was cook and clean for people in need as that was the only thing that gave her a sense of place and belonging. The three year old was also among our little discussion group of five women, she fell asleep next to me on the couch snoring, all of us periodically smiling compassionately over her. Her grandmother left her alone, apparently to stop at the nearest corner store for a couple cans of beer which we learned after she returned an hour later. Prior to her departure, she shared her worry for this young one, who she took away from the chaotic environment of drug use and escalading disputes at the place she was living to walk all the way to this shelter with hopes of having a room to reside in. They were full.
Addiction and dishes
Doing dishes with a recovering addict who is now an intern through the Addiction Counseling Program at Monroe Community College, we were having a debate about the pros and cons of Suboxone and methadone. She: arguing that people are just replacing one addiction for another high, citing examples of friends nodding off in groups, and that they haven’t changed their other harmful behaviors, citing an example of someone slapping his kids around. Me, listening and agreeing and feeling to myself “how should I even attempt to disagree? I have not experienced this world,” yet verbally playing devil’s advocate, claiming surely there must be some people that these replacement drugs have been successful, and believing in my heart that the hour I spent in the Suboxone clinic had a few examples of patients who seemed to display a success story.
~ Carrie McNamee, Medical Student