October 30, 2010

Enchanted - and they pay me to do this?

I tell people all the time, foster kids are like your kids, like my grand kids, they are just kids. Chloe loved princesses just like my granddaughter Lucy does!. Her mother was a wanderer, who meets the wrong guys, isn't very stable and ends up in the wrong places, she makes too many bad choices and comes home one day to find her kids in foster care. This isn't a violent story, it isn't one that makes you cringe at the details, but it is always sad when children are separated from their parent, no matter what the reason.

I never really noticed the movie Enchanted until that day. It was on the TV above my desk, as I arrived at work. Chloe was on the couch engrossed in the movie.  Her arm encirled a giant princess  teapot, that looked bigger than her! Leaning on a magazine she was busy sketching  a princess on a small tablet, mesmerized by the movie. Enchanted is one of those wonderful movies girls adore.  There's lots of cute animals; a handsome prince,  the "True Love's Kiss" guy;  and a princess most girl dream of being.   As Chloe watched on this sad day for her, this simple movie seemed to distract and also rekindle any dream hidden in her heart.

"Don't you love the songs?" she asks  without moving her eyes from the screen.  She looked down only for a minute to work on her princess.
"Yes! I love them!" I tell her.  Who wouldn't I thought!  I could hardly do my work.  The movie's princess creatively makes dresses out of drapes and has her furry friends (even roaches) clean the house. She's kind and oh so beautiful, selfless, full of goodness and incredibly trusting in values few embrace. It was so uplifting and lovely.
When the movie is over Chloe asks if I will take care of her teapot while she goes to lunch.

"Watch it every minute okay?! Don't let anyone even touch it! Promise?  Only you!! No one but you can hold it! Promise??! " I promise, but she asks me several times again before she finally leaves for lunch.  Our nurse asks me what that is about, I tell her.
"They lived in a lot of shelters" she understands now.

When Chloe returns after lunch she stands in front of my desk  and I tell her NO ONE has touched the teapot, not a soul!  She is relieved and tells me,
"I love to talk!" Smiling, I tell her,
"Well me too!" I ignore the low laughter of my co-workers and say, "You came to the right place! What do you like to talk about?!"
"My mom! I love to talk about my mom, she's wonderful!" Chloe says. That is the beginning of a long conversation about her mother, her family and some interesting adventures.  We talk for a long time. Everything is about her mother. No questions, no unspoken judgements, I just work and listen. This child. is so delightful, so honest, so pure, and so untainted.

"Do you know who I want to be when I grow up?" she asks me to guess.
"Your mom?" I am pretty sure I nailed it!
"Nope, like the princess in the movie, and do you know why? " she asks, her eyes sparkling. I try to guess why she's chosen her, maybe her power over the animals, her beautiful dresses, her lovely singing voice, her "True Love's Kiss" guy?
No. no. no...so I give up!
"No...because she's nice, she's good."
"Yes" I agree "She's wonderful, just like you! Yes, I am sure you will be just like her when you grow up!"  The child is pleased with my affirmation.

Before long she leaves with her brothers....I watch her hugging the princess teapot which only she and I have touched.....yes, I think Chloe will be just like the princess ...........I smile as she turns the corner to the elevator..........and they pay me to do this job?!?

October 17, 2010

Goodbye Rita....my sweet Rita

It was days before I was to leave for Richmond and I still didn't have a plane ticket.  I'm a procrastinator but it was getting ridicules!  Prices were rising!  Somehow I think I was  afraid Rita would slip away if I left town, and somehow buying the ticket made it so. For years there were times when I watched her slipping down but she ALWAYS rallied!!   Yes, Rita had this amazing way of surprising us, like a little imp, playing a trick on us. Frank and I often joked that she would outlive us all...and it really felt like that for many years. But we all knew  it was changing.  Lately, as I drove home in the darkness along Quail Roost  Dr I'd  think of the simplest thing and I would begin to cry, soon I was bawling my eyes out....until last week when I asked, myself
     "What is wrong with you Ginny? You cry every time you come down this road!"   Now it would seem obvious to most but maybe  I needed to form the words in my mind.
     "Rita IS dying and I am very sad......"  answering my own question.  I didn't know when, but I knew it was going to happen, and nothing could stop it. Yes, I knew she was old, yes,she was failing, yes she would be in a better place!  YES! YES! YES!!  Rita was my 2nd job, NO!...she was my friend and I hoped I was hers too.  So I was gentle with myself, agreeing it was okay to be sad and I went home and bought the ticket. 

Rita was strong, tenacious, and tough, with an amazing will to live even in that dark place called Alzheimer's Disease.  Was it really dark I often wondered??  I did not know, some days she seemed confused and frightened but most of the time she was quite content.  During our visits, I wanted to bring stability and peace to her heart, through touch, gentle words, stories, and songs. So in the best way I knew how, that is what I did for 11 years, always believing SOMEWHERE there was a connection...a place where she knew she was safe and loved very much. 

Several weeks ago I found Rita in her reclining chair gazing into the late afternoon sunlight streaming through the window. I stood looking down at her, she seemed so frail and finally I spoke,
     "Rita, are you tired?"  A small tear formed in her eye, just a tiny one brimming to the edge  but not falling on her cheek...and then she gave the smallest little nod.  Was it real, did she understand? Was she trying to tell me she really was tired? I think so. I told her we knew she had fought a good fight, that she was brave and gave us courage.

On October 11, 2010 I rode the Virginia Creeper Trail on a lovely blue cruiser, with my dear, sweet family.  I hadn't taken a real bike ride in 40 years, but that day I rode 17 miles in the most incredible beauty. Beauty that leaves you breathless, engulfed in the Creator's love!! 

When the day ended, waiting for me were the words .... "Rita  passed away this morning".......

Today I am remembering and am so grateful for....
....Rita's faithful loving husband of 69 years who knew how to "raise hell" to take care of his girl
....Rita's caring daughter, my dear friend who has always respected and honored her parents, moving mountains to make their lives rich and good.  An awesome woman!!
....my husband who loved Rita too, and saw visiting her as a privilege and joy...connecting with her in an amazing way.
....Rita showing me that all life is precious
....her singing I Love You Truly, It Had To Be You & Hark The Herald Angels Sing
....the day Rita told me about how she walked alone in the snow to school, and she was so afraid
....Lou crying at Christmas, wishing every elderly person had a loving family like Rita's
....a kind priest
....Rita's incredible creations made of shells from Sanibel
....holding hands in Mass
....this moment
....Rita's hand on mine, saying "It will be alright" as we sat outside on the bench- a word from God
....the last day Rita tried to say her rosary, instead said the Pledge of Allegiance
....her thousand mile days in the PCV walker
....how she liked to sit in the sunshine
....her KEDS
....she never had bedsores
....Rita had few wrinkles at 90
....the way we sometimes laughed together
....the year I explained the meaning  of the Easter holiday and Rita asked in horror if Jesus was okay now
....the young man from the singing group that spoke a blessing over Rita last Christmas
....when she winked at you
....the time she said "Be careful" when I said good-night.
....that there is no end to this list

Thank you LORD for,
....a day in VA when beauty reigned through sadness
....the comfort of the Milky Way
....that two young boys offered genuine consolation
....for a friend who knows suffering and walks with you in sadness
....for a desperately needed text that says  I am remembered & loved on the day I say good-bye to my friend
....Your sweet presence at death

Rita, I never saw this picture of you! Frank says this is your engagement picture.  He said he chased you for two years!!  Wow....that sounds like you. I will treasure it.  I want to remember you always as this youthful young woman, for in truth, it was how I  knew you, full of beauty and spunk, in a body that just grew old.  Yes, that is the girl I know and will always love! Goodbye Sweet Friend!

July 11, 2010

Saying good-bye to a FRIEND

I took this picture the last time I saw my dear friend David. He was surrounded by his grandchildren, they were so bright and fresh, so engaging, so lovely. Everyone seemed to be enjoying each other. He went around the circle introducing everyone and at the end, he turned to me, then holding my hand, he announced to everyone,

"This... is my friend!!" I felt so proud in that moment and so very blessed to know this sweet man.

I don't remember when I met him, maybe it was in the chapel during Mass. I had grown to love the words of the liturgy, but more than anything else, I loved the man from the Philippines who sat in the back in a wheelchair. His deeply resonating voice had grown louder every day due to his deafness, it could be heard above others who repeated the Mass, known since childhood, in a rote manner. But David would linger on phrases, saying them with great feeling as the kindly Father Meyers waited. I so loved that, the patient priest and the old man in the wheelchair, for I knew David felt each word deeply, just as I did

For years as I entered the nursing home's front entrance, there sat David with a greeting for all. He was smart and articulate and could carry on a conversation about anything from a world crisis to his pondering why teen girls would make a pregnancy pact. "Where were their parents?" he would say. I always loved his thinning hair that stood up in a "butch" style. His parting words were always the same,a blessing given to thousands over the years,

"Have a good day (or evening) May the good LORD bless and guide you!" And my response was always the same too. "Thank you!! He does David, He does!!" It was a ritual we had, and continued long after he stopped hearing well

David and I spoke often, he was such an encouragement, so appreciative for the moments we chatted. I found him to be a man of honor and great faith. He told me how he had grown up in the Philippines and had attended a mission school. He told funny stories about his classmates, about a girl he loved there but how he would later find the love of his life. One afternoon he sang me a song, I watched as he lifted his good hand in front of him, that was strange I thought. Then it occurred to me that he was raising his hand in praise as a choir boy would but the paralyzed hand just wouldn't meet it's partner. That did not deter him as he sang his childhood song;

"Praise Him! Praise Him, all ye little children, God is Love, God is Love..." Oh I loved it!! People looking from every direction enjoyed it too. Then I sang him the song about the shepherd boy David who slayed the giant Goliath. We talked about his job with IBM, golf, working in Manhattan and teaching at a University. He said they promised to keep his position after he had his stroke, and lately he had been thinking about taking them up on that offer. I told him I thought he should consider that, the students would love him.

He reminded me, though sharing the same name as the great Old Testament King, he had never dishonored his wife, who had died many years before. No one would ever say he acted inappropriately with any woman or staff in the nursing home. Then with a wink he added,

"I think she watches me." how we laughed about that!

One weekend morning I found him in the chapel, sitting in his wheelchair with his head hanging low. I slipped over and knelt down beside him.

"David, are you sad?" Strangely he heard me.

"Yes" he spoke slowly and deliberately. "I am wondering, all these years, why am I here. I always believed God brought me here to encourage and help others, even with my stroke ...but I wonder now" His head dropped lower as we grasped each others hands.

"Oh David, if only knew what your life means to so many" but I was crying now with no words of comfort, "David, can we pray together?" he nodded yes.

So I prayed not caring or knowing if David could hear or understand. My heart was breaking with sadness so I poured it out on the Savior who welcomes us. I told Him that I had seen His very face in this man, His child, a man with a broken body, sitting in diapers and his breakfast on his shirt. I told God David had been such a blessing to so many, I spoke of David's caring kindness, his smiles and blessings, how he was a light in a sometimes a dark place where people live out their lives, where staff have their own struggles, where people's dreams end. And in the midst, David was there, a missionary like the ones who taught him the praise song, always the same, a constant blessing to oh so many.. And then I just asked the LORD to show David how important he is, how valued he is and what an instrument of love and grace David had been, especially to me. I think God knew it all anyway but it was a good reminder that even the encourager need encouraging. And best of all I knew He'd come to David, prayer or no prayer.

I didn't know when he died, I just saw the paper on the bulletin board inviting everyone to his Celebration of Life. It was week old when I saw it, but I will always celebrate my friend David's life. I miss him. But for now...

Have a good day and may the good LORD bless and guide you!!

July 5, 2010

Life is Hard

I was not happy to be riding the "bad bus" vs the "good bus" ...with valid reasons of course. Remember this? http://marmiesmusings.blogspot.com/2009/04/just-boy.html But the ride on the 38 never fails to bring me into some kind of reality about life. On a crowded bus we have to look at each others faces and literally rub against one another, like it or not. There are mean people, kind people, funny people, and always people to remind you of things you have forgotten.

I heard the infant crying, a brand new baby I thought. I turned to see the man gently lift the baby from the carrier to his shoulder. Usually people just juggle those ugly carriers in an effort to quiet a screaming baby, but not this man, he was deliberate and caring. The child quieted after a few simple pats on the back. The man looked weary as he spoke in Creole to a child seated next to him, she was so tiny I could barely see the top of her head. As the bus emptied I waited and asked if I could help, he nodded in relief as I cautiously took the child's hand. She was unsure of me so I reached in my bag for the little Cabbage Patch doll I had stashed there for just the right time. It sits next to a matchbox car in the bag I carry every day. You just never know. With a nod from dad she took it in her hand, that tiny little doll my own little girls held.

Once settled on the train he tells me his story. For three weeks his wife complained of pain, twice he took her back to be checked, but they sent her away. She became very sick and they finally kept her at the hospital. He visited once, but he hadn't been able to reach her for several days and he was concerned. With no phone of his own a friend named Billy is kind enough to make or take a call for him. His two older boys are in a daycare, so he is going to the hospital with the two little ones to find his wife and see if she is okay. It's difficult with a newborn and a 2 year old to travel from Florida City to downtown on the bus, but he manages, and he's grateful to ride the 38.

He has done all kinds of jobs, he explains but he's out of work right now with times being harder. "It's difficult" I say, he nods. I have no cash, but he's not asking for help. Baby Christopher is content, and resting but I'm sure his mother is wondering about him. Gabby, looks up at me, her face is so angelic, wondering who I am. Little barretts hang on the end of her braids, two pink plastic flowers that sway as she walks. The rest if her hair is braided close to her head, the braids are getting nappy now, her mom isn't there to braid her hair, and dad can do only so much.the child sits quietly on my lap as her father speaks over the rumble of the train.

I hate to say good-bye as the train pulls into Government Center, the man thanks me profusely and assures me he will be fine. I wonder about him all day and into the weekend. Is the wife okay? Do they have enough to eat? Formula is so expensive! No, the kids have Medicaid and WIC for the baby, that's something. Will someone braid Gabby's hair? Who do we know who can give him a job? Surely we can give him some yard work and I could help with the kids
Everyday I see abused and neglected children but today I am reminded there are lots of people out there going through hard times, they are not doing drugs or neglecting their kids, they are just poor and need a helping hand, even if they do not ask. I search all over for the post-it with Billy's name and number on it...but is GONE!!! Nowhere to be found! Usually I loose things and just roll with it, like loosing my keys, forgetting my ID and having to fly without it, leaving my phone at work. I loose everything! Just as our meeting was providential, maybe loosing that small paper is too. But I am just so mad, so darn mad at myself. God please send someone to help them!

A Princess in My Ear

The child takes the otoscope from the doctor's set and announces she was going to check my ear.

ME - Okay, I was just thinking I needed my ear checked (as she moves forward I wonder whose ear it had been in last, but I cannot resist this cheeky little four year old.)

HER - Hmmm.........(she was so contempaltive)

ME - What do you see in there?

HER - I see a princess, a beautiful princess!

ME - Really? I am so happy! (I don't know how having a little girl tell you you have a princess in your ear can transform you but it does! )

Her baby brother is being checked out by the nurse, but the little girl is a busy bee checking out all the toys in our medical office, like she belonged there. She is bright, confident and oh so cute. Two minutes you will fall in love with her. Her mother who is there for a visit, steps in to speak to the nurse and proudly announces she is a former client "Really?" I say. She was a foster child in our residential home, and now her little ones have come into care too, that is by far, the saddest of thoughts. Regardless of the reasons as to why her children are in foster care, she asks numerous questions about her baby son health and make demands any good mother would make. She's their mom and we don't forget that, nor do we judge her. She has to say good-bye to her children after 2 hours. She passes off the baby but the little girl hangs on her leg;

HER - "No, no!! I want to go with you!!" She's screaming uncontrolably. I am sad for them

MOM - "No! You go with them, I have to go to school. You can't come with me! Go!" She is strong but not mean, she knows the routine.

After that, I see the little girl as I pass the visitation room. She's funny and charming and always says she's going home with her mom, wailing at the end of every visit. That is not unusual for children in care but this little one has a flair for drama. This time the worker kindly tells her they are going downstairs where people are working and she cannot make all that noise. She instantly stops crying and says, "Okay." My granddaughter can do the same thing, she just stops crying when it isn't working for her anymore.

They stop by the medical office and she want to check my ear again

ME - What do you see in there today?

HER - Hmmmm............

ME - A princess?

HER - No.............I see a dragon

ME - A dragon?!!?

HER. - Yes a dragon, but he's just eating grass

I don't know what it all means but I will never forget her and pray she goes home with mom and has a good life. Me??! The princess and grass-eating dragon really works for me!