My eyes welled up lying down with Willie as she fell asleep. How could I forget? How could I ever forget?
I came downstairs to make a call to the Starbucks on the corner of ‘this and that’.
“Hello, yes, hiiiiiiii…ummm, well, I’m sure this will seem like a strange question, but…well, you know that homeless lady that hangs out in front….” silence….”Ya know? The kinda overweight woman? She is always out front?”…silence…”like, every day?”
“Yes” the gal says in a soft stoic voice.
“Well, I’m sorta making like a ‘welfare check’ on her…it’s just…I haven’t seen her for a couple days…and she’s sorta my friend…and she told me the other day her heart was ‘angry’…well it hurt, ya know, and I’m just hoping someone has seen her”.
“Oh, o.k.-yes, I’m pretty sure I saw her. Hold on, let me go ask…….yes-she was here yesterday”.
“Ah! Great! Thank you, thank you so much. You see, I’m going to ask around to see if there is some sort of medical assistance I can get her - nothing that will disrupt your business or anything…it’s just that she is so sweet and has such a beautiful soul…and…”. Crickets. Chirp. “…well, anyway, I really appreciate your time and your help…”
“Sure, have a good night”.
Have a good night.
Have a goooooooood night.
Yes, I suppose I will. I’m warm and safe and soon to be cuddling my little love child as these storms are sure to wake her.
But what about Pat?
Pat is a woman I have had my eye on for about 2 years now. She always sits alone with her black suitcase and two or three plastic bags which seem to hold the day’s necessities. She keeps them pretty under wraps, but every now and then I would see a little snack surface from the bottom of one and then she’d roll and wrap the bag up really quick like she was figuratively and literally ‘packing it away’. She is deceptively large but seems to carry half of her weight in her ankles…her always exposed, red, completely chafed water-logged ankles. It is impossible not to notice or even get stuck in a stare with them. They would be the elephant in the room - if there were a room.
I started saying hi to her early on. That’s very easy because you can say hi and keep walking to your car. Your warm, dry car that often has a juice and granola bar of some sort in it. I started making a point to see her last winter. I’d make small talk about the weather and then dip my toe in here and there to impose a question as to if she’s keeping warm or if she needs another blanket…or anything.
But it was imperative to me that she not feel that I saw her as a homeless bag lady. I created this imagery in my head that if I really made myself see her and her soul and her adult humanness, that she might think I did not know she was a homeless person who carried bags…or talked to voices in her head. Well the voices are not heard in her head…she actually hears them all…and sadly, she also actually knows they are not real, but not until her responses exit her mouth.
I digress. Often.
So I decided that in order to have her trust me, I would look into her eyes during conversation. This may sound very easy. I pride myself on saying hi to strangers on EVERY STREET no matter WHERE I am and often when I am with company. Ask Michael. He says I just loooooooove to make him squirm. :)….but this was very different. Because, you see, Pat has the most beauuuuuutiful eyes. Piercing and kind. They remind me so much of my late Mother in law, I almost believed…well, you get it. Very Irish, very gentle while verrrrrrry knowing.
I went to visit her one day as if I were ‘in the neighborhood’ and dug around the car and found one of those apple banana squish pouches of Willie’s that she has sort of retired and skipped across the street with purpose and plopped down presenting the pouch. I had avoided offering her food or drink because I really really really did not want her to think I saw her as someone who was in need. Just another lady of LaGrange. ahem. But now I was somehow ready to skew the lines.
“Do you think you’d like something like this my daughter used to love them they are organic and really yummy but now she seems to be over them and if you like them I can bring you more…” I was not so smooth. It’s hard to act cool when you just aren’t.
“Oh, yes, I see…but what about your daughter?” Pat asked so sincerely.
“Oh, like I said, you know these kids today they are such picky eaters and they change their minds so fast and now I’m stuck with all of these squishy things and if you like ‘em boy that would be great. I have so many I don’t know what to do with them”.
You know who WAS cool and IS cool? Pat.
After that initial awkward skewing of the lines, it just became nice. I mean, I am truly comforted in her company…but only because she also gives me the impression that she truly enjoys mine. She doesn’t say much unless you ask her a question. So I made it a point to ask her questions. And here is what I know.
She is 70. “No way!!!! You seriously could pass for 49”
“Yes, yes- I get that all the time - when I wear my hat you can’t see my gray roots just my dark hair in the ponytail…”
She is not only Irish but American Indian . I told Pat that “I’m American Indian, Scotch Irish, Spanish, French and German…are you Indian? I see something in your cheekbones” …”Yes? No wonder we get along so well”.
I also know that she hasn’t had a drink of alcohol or smoked in 20 years. Doesn’t even drink coffee. “When I was young and brainless, I used to smoke 2 packs of menthol cigarettes a day…I smoked menthol, because I was allergic to regular cigarettes. “ (???)
She is Schizophrenic. She has conversations when there is stress. Not pleasant conversations. The last one I heard was when some dude in a uniform walked up to us. We both feared he was an authority to ‘clean the street’ and that we were both pegged as loiterers…but alas, dude was there to hit on me. no joke…i should be flattered? oh my gosh, this dude would not STOP and was clearly interrupting my Spring sunny visit with my girlfriend, even after I let him down gently with the ‘husband’ word yada yada yada. I could tell Pat was stressed out and she blurted out to an imaginary person, “Oh no, he’s really done it this time!!!! He’s getting the death penalty!!!!”
I calmly turned my head to Pat as she covered it up with, “Oh I was responding to them over there” as she pointed to two random people sitting at a bench eating a smoothie. I nodded as if to say, “of course” and then as the dude laid back into his open marriage/divorce story, I nudged Pat with my elbow and could see her eyes twinkle as she held back her laughter with a muffling smirk.
It is so nice to be completely ‘with’ her and to block out the cookie cutter town and the myriad of Jones’ that come in and out of these overpriced, homogenized ‘boutiques’ and coffee shops. I have noticed that she gets more attention now that I have imposed myself upon her stoop. I like that. I told Michael a while back that “everyone is up Pat’s jock now”…we laugh and I am admittedly arrogantly satisfied that I might give others incentive to rise above their own discomfort and acknowledging or offering her this or that. Unfortunately, I worry that if she gets too much attention, it might scare her away, too…yes I might over-think this stuff, but it is seemingly very delicate…especially because I also now know she has a heart condition-and needs help.
The other day, Willie and I made cookies and I brought some by for Pat after I dropped Willie off at school. Willie has only met Pat a handful of times, but loves her like I do. Her hugs for Pat are packed with more velocity than I am accustomed to witness or receive - and Willie can throw down a hug. But I bring her sparingly, only for awareness and to fine tune her already infinite sense of empathy. Also, arrogantly, I want Willie to change the world with all of my friends’ beautiful children and those of strangers as well.
So. Pat was sleep-sitting. I often see her this way and leave her be. But that day, I sat the plate of cookies down and whispered, “Hi Pat”. She sat up startled and I almost instantly cried, but smiled instead. “I’m sooooo sorry I woke you, honey…I wanted you to know these were for you and that the plate was just some cheap garage sale item you can pitch so you don’t hafta carry it around”. I wanted her to have a real plate, not a paper plate or plastic baggie, right???!
“Oh it’s ok” as she sort of pretended to take a bite. I picked one up to show her they were edible and safe, but she sort of put the one she nibbled from on top of her suitcase acting appreciative, but then slipping in, “my heart…it’s been acting angry.”
“Oh my gosh, Pat-does it hurt?”
‘It does this from time to time and I just sort of try and sleep it away”
“Oh honey…I’m so sorry. Can I get you some water? Water would be really good for you”.
“No, no. It’s ok”
“Ok…but when you feel up for it, it would really be good, Pat”.
“Oh, it just gets angry sometimes.”
I was sort of paralyzed. Like, really, what in the hell could I do? I rubbed her back gently through her tough canvas coat and just said, “I’m so sorry, try to go back to sleep…I’m so sorry I woke you, honey”.
I left her thinking, sugar? cookies? Terrible. How could I leave those with her-Vegan and Organic don’t make a bit of difference when it’s the f-ing sugar that is poison.
Michael thought she might be a ringer candidate for congestive heart failure with the way I described her ankles.
I drove by later and she was gone.
Then again the next day.
Finally last night she had been spotted by the double spy- barista…(God forbid she might help me with fervor-might she lose her night shift for telling me if someone was dead or alive?)
I’ve made some calls and googled to the ends and really have no f-ing clue what to do other than get her to an ER. I couldn’t find any direct google for any emergency- health -attention- for- a -homeless- person…thanks to my sister in law who is a nurse and volunteers with the retired/elderly nuns, (yes-Saintly) she has encouraged this route.
If anyone has any other tip or information in a city that ‘houses’ 140, 000 (plus) homeless people (44,000 of those are children), please feel free to message here. You’d think these resources would be second nature and advertised with their provisions.
Wish me luck, please. I’m scared…for Pat, or for doing anything, really. How is it that I should feel scared to help? That in itself is terrifying.
Let us try to make up for a lack of caring for our earth’s inhabitants and teach our children to…at very least.
For Pat’s sake.
The Musings of Mrs. Murphy
I know I'm going to die.
I'm not sure if I'm obsessed with it, or if secretly it is normal for it to be in the back (or front) of everyone's mind but nobody mentions it, so the notion stays squashed in order to go on living our day to days...
What I am surely obsessed with is protecting my daughter. In every capacity of all spectrums. Not much gets past me because I barely ever blink around her.
I want nothing more than for our daughter to live out her life and to love and to spread joy and help heal the cruelties and fears of the world's inhabitants. Tall order? (Warning: sidebar, pulpit rant!). It's not up to her, or 'us', or our parents or theirs...it is somewhere in between all of those and these generational intersections. Somewhere in the 'in betweens', we all...all of us...inherited some level of complacency. Doing things that hurt others without facing or acknowledging consequence or result...because nowadays 'Survival' is beyond survival of the fittest- it has become "he who dies with the most toys, wins"...without respect to the babies being born, as politicians grease or get greased to continue to perpetuate the catapult of industries that strip from the health of our future and feed the anti-productive industries. How could it be humanly possible for men to be raping women, for children to be neglected, abused or murdered, or for the love of money to ensure our nation ingests food that is bad for our bodies at very least...when there is this variety of love when looking at my child-knowing that the majority of mothers and fathers on this earth share this involuntary impulse to love and protect...how could there be cruelty or suffering.
So, you're welcome. Lol... A glimpse into the very busy mind of Heather Horton-Murphy. Michael is a Saint to make it through the days of my constant 'biting off more than I can chewitis'. 2 days ago, I managed to punch myself in the face trying to cut tree branches-chipping a tooth, got bit by poison oak cutting back bushes and then almost took my thumb off in the garbage disposal. Michael reminded me 'these things come in threes'...so I took that as some sort of relief and resolve...until...
...Yesterday, life imitated art. 'Sirens', a gut-wrenching, heart-piercing song, penned by Michael this year, literally sucks the air from my lungs every time we reach the last verse...this is where the main character of the song finds out his wife and daughter are t-boned by a Lincoln...and killed.
I saw it all, like many experience, in slow motion. We were on our way to meet a cousin at the pool, leisurely driving down beautiful 79th/German Church Road, when upon entering the Wolf Road intersection, I watched as a speeding orange sports car, was not stopping. I locked the brakes and surrendered to the impact. Dead center for the T-bone, I saw a river of green, broken glass and white...(as Willie called them later, "covers", were the air bags). On impact, we flipped upside down and spun 360 degrees while continuing to flip landing back on our wheels on the opposite corner of the intersection miraculously not hitting any of the on coming cars, light poles while we were inches from taking outs both.
At impact, I was sure that it was over for me, but in those 7 seconds, I somehow super-rationalized that perhaps Willie would live. But when I realized I was still alive when we landed, my terror evolved into what condition Willie was potentially in. I carry a specific episode of the family on Oprah who lost all of their kids from a semi slamming into them from behind.. and run scenarios through my head on preventative maneuvers for the agony I feel for merely seeing a surviving parent on TV...or my friend's friend who lost their little boy being hit in a crosswalk by a cab...take me. They say you never know what love is until you have a child and realize that -without blinking-you would hurl yourself in front of a moving train to save your child. It is factual. Take. Me. But there were no tracks to dive for now. It was the literal moment of truth. Then I heard the screaming...blood-curdling, screaming- it was music to my ears. I didn't blink...and then began my Emmy award winning 4 hour performance of, "this is going to be a new and very exciting adventure, Willie!" Before I could even see her, I ripped my seatbelt off and lifted the airbags up and asked her, "was that scary, honey" as I jumped out to get her out - "yyyesssss" she said softly silencing her screams...but the door was completely plowed in, I dove back the car and pulled her out of her car seat and through the front seat agreeing with her that THAT was sooooo scary but everything is going to be alright...she didn't shed another tear. I wouldn't let go until the paramedics pulled her from my arms to place us both in traction on gurneys...we held hands and talked about silly things laying side by side. And we heard "Sirens".
Before the police and paramedics arrived I went with Willie in arms, to face the man in the other car. I told him I'm not even sure what God is but he had better get on his knees and thank God nothing happened to my child...he was like a big sad Teddy bear and wouldn't stop apologizing...so we just hugged him. Then we hugged the first witness to call 911 ('hug' in the arena of 'clutch-suction power hold, never-gonna-let-u-go hug') then let me call Michael from her phone (she was still trembling because we apparently just missed her while we were spinning) - a flight attendant on her way to the airport and at some point hugged both officers on the scene before we were corralled to the ambulance. There were 5 or 6 paramedics and they all confessed eventually that they had never witnessed any two people waltzing out of a wreck like this. They would confirm later, as well as an officer, that the fact we missed all the poles and cars was what may have saved us.
Michael met us at LaGrange hospital (absolutely superb, amazing, wonderful people) where they ran a bunch of X-rays and cleared me. Willie suffered some abrasions around her neck and legs by the straps that saved her life in her car seat. I had to pick out a few pieces of glass from my leg and forehead- I had bit through my tongue and my neck is stiff. It is all a miracle. What could possibly matter more than another day to love one another...?
Before we could leave the hospital, Michael had to go across town to get a new car seat for Willie, so we could get home. Safely...all together. We all slept in the same bed last night, but before Willie fell asleep in my arms, she made me promise that I would call the other driver and forgive him...so I did. Well, sort of. I asked his insurance agent, who called today, to tell his client that Willie and I forgive him. And I probably only can because Willie is alive and well. The insurance agent said he doesn't think he would be able to forgive him if he were us...my guess is this agent, 'Mike', deals with a whooooooole lot of verrrrrrrry angry adults on a daily basis. My Willie kept me in line, though.
Today I went to retrieve items from the totaled car. The towing service was off a gravel road, off of another gravel road underneath Highway 55. I was greeted by a locked building door and not one, but two giant, unleashed, matted German Shepards that appeared from around the side of the shop- I was straight up Chevy Chase from, "Fletch". On the way there, I passed not one, but two funeral processions on Archer Ave...just blocks from one another. I said a prayer to 'whatever God' might hear for each hearse...oddly, there appeared to be three...I didn't blink.
At risk of fearing judgment in sharing tonight's experience, I say, "to hell with fear"...fear is how we got ourselves in the predicament we are in to begin with.
Like most, I spent the day with a physio-chemical reaction to the murders in SC...feeling helpless, I decided to act SOMEHOW, SOME WAY.....I'm not looking for a pat on the back and yeah "I've got lots of friends who are black"-cliche in hand, my friends all know where I stand. I know where I stand...but there was something on the face of strangers yesterday-or more like, something missing...glazed over, trance-like emptiness. I was selfishly, desperate to have a conversation...
After my gig at the Hyatt, I loaded my car and noticed 4 black gentleman taking a smoke break across from the hospital...My soul was begging for communion and I figured today of all days would be the day to yell from a mountaintop, "CAN WE PLEASE GET TOGETHER AS HUMANS AND SHARE OUR HEARTS AND SOULS"?!?! ...but also a day to understandedly get scoffed at and be pegged ignorant...I marched right on up to them and mustered up the courage to boldly interrupt. I said, "Excuse me...I'm going out on a limb...putting myself at risk..." and then they saved me by interrupting, "we're totally open to that-you can take a risk"...their names were, Gerard, Danny, Jamal and Keith Kelly...we talked about stuff. For a long time.
They didn't even light up another cigarette- there was too much we all wanted to get off our chest...strangers...trusting one another...and talking...about stuff. Mostly about fear and lack of education. A lack of identity. A lack of eye contact. A lack of their nephews and kid brothers wearing pants that fit properly -further making it difficult on their elders to defend. (A lack of wanting to express anything on Facebook about real issues)...and so...much...more. Keith told me that they were all huddled talking about what they could possibly do to get through to the next generation - almost mentoring and coaching Jamal who was about 17(?).
Gerard showed me the gray hairs in his beard and explained that he grew the beard because, shaved, "I look a lot younger...and I get targeted"...I told him, "you were born a target - make no mistake...I am aware".
Jamal shyly expressed what I know to be common place, that since boyhood, he and his peers are all taught different codes of who, how and when you can look at certain white people.
Danny asked me, "so tell me-if we were wearing our pants low, would you have still come over here?"...I told him truthfully I innately knew they worked at the hospital because two appeared to be wearing scrubs of some kind "so I figured you guys for saints". I pointed at the buildings and said, this is where I work - I felt comfortable because this is my "turf"...and I was born white and just cute enough...you shoulda seen me when I was younger-I was really cute..." wink.
It was time to go. Keith asked my name and shook my hand - I obnoxiously read each one of their name tags as if this time I might remember some names...and imposed a "hug-out". Fear is a four letter word. "F" it. Let's hug some of this shit out 'n stuff. We are, in fact, all in this together.
"This is our year, Heath"!!! (wink, smile)
the hell "our year" really was.
Here I am sitting in front of my technical gadget allowing my brain to settle and organize language with love and care, to articulate with purpose, my first blog's course.