No matter who you are today, there will eventually come a point, be it through age or illness or something else, when you have to depend on others. There are times when those seeming to show us kindness are only using us to their own gain. What I feel is even worse is when the ones we expect to be there for us (friends and family) are the ones we can least depend on and a total stranger shows us more kindness than they do. This realization was brought home to Mrs. C and myself during the following encounter:
Note: (I decided to leave the dialogue in local dialect this time. It shouldn't be difficult to follow, though).
It's Friday afternoon. The end of Mrs. C's first week of working day shift. She calls me and tells me she had just finished doing a few errands and was about to head home. I, myself, had just left work (back when I was working, that is) when she called so we arrange to meet downtown and travel home together. She says she'll wait for me in a fast food restaurant that was close to the bus station.
It doesn't take long for me to get there. We greet each other and I help her with some of her load. She gets up and we head to the door. I was tired. This week was extremely stressful and I had a million and one things racing through my mind. I was looking forward to getting home. I didn't, at first notice when my wife stopped.
She was talking to a little old lady – possibly in her eighties – who had called out to her. She was sitting at one of the restaurant tables and I saw that she had her hand out. At first I thought she was begging for change, but then I heard my wife ask her if she wanted her to help her up and took her hand. I moved in closer and, without hesitation the elderly woman reached her other hand toward me. We helped her up out of the chair. She was small and frail and her back was bent from what was obviously osteoporosis. She had a wooden cane in her right hand. Her dress was simple and her gray was short and pinned back.
She'll be called Ms. Gray from here on in.
Ms. Gray asked us to help her to the door. As we were doing so, a man in about his late thirties, offered to assist and, together the three of us guided her to the door. As we reached it I couldn't help but get a little pissed off at the guy who insisted on barging in from off the street and pushing past us. He was tall, heavy-built and looked in his fifties. It seemed apparent that he was in such an urgent need for his fried chicken fix that he couldn't wait for us to get past.
When we were outside. Mrs. C asked her in which direction she was going and she pointed east. The guy who had joined us said he was going that way and he wouldn't mind helping her. Ms. Gray looked at him and then at us. Maybe it was because she she had asked for our assistance in the restaurant and not his. Maybe the years had made her cautious. But, whatever her reason, she reached for my hand again. I took it and Mrs. C held her other arm which held the cane. The other guy, sensing he wasn't needed, continued on his way.
Her destination the cathedral two blocks away. There she would get a ride home from someone who was attending afternoon mass.
Mrs. C: How far are you going?
Ms. Gray: Mt. Hope.
This was a little past our destination and Mrs. C pointed out that we were headed to the bus station and we could see her home. However, she was insistent on going to the cathedral.
As we walked slowly along the cracked and uneven sidewalks, I could see that her ankles were severely swollen. Whenever we came to a dip in the sidewalk or any of the curbs, she had to stop and sum up her strength to negotiate it.
“You get ah good escort this time!” a street vendor called out to her as we passed by.
This confirmed what I had already guessed. This wasn't the first time she had been in this situation. Ms. Gray stopped to greet a friend, another street vendor.
Vendor Friend: “You need to get somebody to drop you to town, girl.”
Ms. Gray: “Yeah, but who go do it?”
Their exchange lasted a few more seconds and then she tugged my hand indicating she wished to continue onward. I also couldn't help but notice that, as we walked, no one, except for a small child, made even the slightest attempt to give way. Don't get me wrong. I'm not asking that the crowd part for us, or anything. It would be nice, though, if one or two of them would attempt to give us some room. The way people brushed past us, seemingly so caught up in their own lives, I thought they would start climbing over us if we slowed them down too much.
Mrs. C talked with her some more. We learned that she regularly came into city to do errands and get her regular check-up at the general hospital.
Me: You don't have anybody who could bring you to town?
Ms. Gray: My grandson does live with me but is like he don't live there. He hardly ever there and don't want nothing to do with me.
Mrs C: And nobody else could help?
Ms. Gray: I had a nephew who used to live with us. I put him out after he did steal my whole pension after I cash the cheque. And I raise him from since he was two.
Me: How old is he now?
Ms. Gray: Twenty-one.
My wife shook her head in disappointment. I decided not to ask about the boy's parents or anything else after that. I didn't want to seem like I was prying.
We were getting close to the cathedral. We crossed the street where we met some more of her acquaintances. Elderly women, themselves, they talked about their aches and pains. One of the women rifled through her bag and eventually found the name of a good over the counter painkiller that she guaranteed would help. She handed it to Mrs. C to give to Ms. Gray.
We continued and, almost to the cathedral, we met one more acquaintance. She watched Mrs. C and I sternly, “Remember that young girl who help you the other day and take the $3,000.00 from your bag?” She said to Ms. Gray and watched us again.
“And they still ain't catch she yet.” Ms. Gray lamented.
There wasn't much conversation here and we continued. Finally we reached the cathedral courtyard's front gate. As we walked through the courtyard she pointed to a gray sedan.
Ms. Gray: The driver of that car used to drop me home. I used to give him a $20. or whatever I had on me. His mother start complaining and make him stop.”
Mrs. C: Why?
Ms. Gray only shrugged in response.
Afternoon mass had just finished and people were starting to leave. Ms. Gray became worried that she would miss her ride and wanted to stand in the courtyard. We, on the other hand, were worried about the strain this would put on her legs and convinced her to keep going. The priest stood by the door waiting to greet those who exited. We called him and he immediately recognized Ms. Gray. He assured her – and us – that she'd be taken of and asked us to take her to one of the nearby pews, which we did. At first she wanted to kneel so she could pray but the pain in her legs was too much so we helped her sit up. When she was settled in, we said our goodbyes and left.
As we were leaving, my wife realized she still had the paper with the name of the painkiller in her hand. I ran back and gave it to her. On leaving the priest thanked me for helping her. I met Mrs. C outside the cathedral and we continued on our way. The whole thing made us both think about what we could do to not be so totally abandoned by our loved ones when we eventually grew old ourselves.