Monthly Archives: September 2009

That which does not kill us…

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There she was, so beautiful and perfect in my hands that the past several hours suddenly sifted through my hands like sand with not a single grain of current importance.  It’s amazing how in that moment your own baby looks so much more beautiful than you had been imagining for the months you had been picturing her.  But they grabbed her so quickly in my own delirium that I suddenly had no energy to protest, as the room became whiter, colder, and veiled.  There was nothing left of me as I disappeared in the now very cold, porcelain tub, the placenta still in me, and my own body covered in the stuff that was covering her.  I didn’t know she wasn’t breathing, they didn’t know I was lost; we were both lost for those moments, but then there we were moments later…in our regained pink radiance.  If only the story could have stopped in that perfect moment, but it was dealing with the doctors later that took so much more strength.

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Brothers in Arms

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He was sitting on the ground in the doorway of the National City Bank on E. 9th and Superior wearing dirty jeans, an army jacket and combat boots like a damn wannabe.  “Hey man, gotta smoke?”  he asked looking up in the pouring rain, and I sat down and offered him one

“How’d ya get here, man?”  I asked him as I watched others hurrying back and forth to and from their jobs, theirs cars, their homes, their lives.

I don’t know,”  he said,  “I graduated from college, did all the things I was supposed to do, but you can only go so long without a job.”

“Yeah, I heard that…..” I told him, “After fighting for this country, eight years, two wars, and all I got is free health care at the VA –problem is, they don’t let you live there.”

As we were comparing which churches would help, or had food on which days, and which churches were being closed down, we heard the sound of high heels on wet payment announcing two women walking by, “You know I wanted to get my chin tucked, but in this economy I can barely afford my quarterly botox injections.”

So, have you tried the food at St. James,” he asked, “because I don’t know what they do, but it’s better than the others, and they never push you out or give you limited time.”

Man……St. James closed last week,” I told him.

“Well, have you stayed at St. Aloysius, “ he continued, “ because they let men sleep there on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and they have a TV, and they let you use the showers.”

“St. Aloysius is closing on Monday…”  I told him, “pretty soon…there’s gonna be nothin’”

Have you been to the Department of Jobs and Family services, though man, I heard they can train you in things, help you get a job, even give you food stamps.”

He was so optimistic that I hated to keep bursting his bubble like that, “but they only help you if you have an address,” was followed by his averted eyes and silence.

“I was wonderin’ how you got here, because…you know, I had a job…I mean it was entry-level, but promising…–no insurance, and no insurance would accept me –even if I could’ve afforded to pay more than rent for it.”

“Why not?” I asked as the rain began to hit the front of his hair and drip down over his eyes.

“I have Juvenile Diabetes –pre-existing condition,” he let out one of those little subconscious laughs as I heard his stomach growl. “After a while, I couldn’t afford the medicine and all that, I was barely making enough to live as it was like damn slave labor –uh, no offence, man.”

I laughed, “Slavery exists in many forms, my man, even today.”

“Yeah, so I ended up losing my foot,” he said pointing to his right combat boot as I wondered how I hadn’t noticed the cane leaning against the brick wall, “followed by my place, and then my job… so, uh, how’d you get here, man?”

Bake Sales and Car Washes

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Heather Sherpa had just graduated from nursing school this June and was now back home in the process of looking for a job. One day, as she was working out at the gym, a lonely, desperate, demented man walked into the gym, took out a gun and started randomly shooting all of the women in the room –I’m sure you heard about this. Heather was shot in the leg and a bullet actually hit her tooth –talk about a brush with death, right? Heather, the soon-to-be-nurse, in transition between college and her first job had no insurance to cover her gunshot wounds, rehabilitation and other medical costs, so her friends got together and held a car wash to help her pay for these expenses. Now a lot of Americans may think, “Ohhh, that’s so sweet,” but really, it’s completely ridiculous! Only in America do we accept the idea of holding a car wash, a bake sale, or a spaghetti dinner to help someone pay for an accident or cancer treatment.SN851981

Modern Slavery

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On my street, a father gets laid-off while his wife is pregnant with their second child because all of the factories are stopping their second and third shifts. The mother will get no ice-cream in the middle of the night, no flowers in the hospital or even the chance to buy an outfit or a toy for the new baby –to which everyone comforts her by saying, “It’s ok, the baby won’t notice or understand.”

Dinner table discussions revolve around how to make a box of cereal, some milk, three eggs, two potatoes and a zucchini last four more days until the food stamps kick in again, or what they should spend their last seven dollars on since they need dish soap, toilet paper, gas for the car and shampoo –don’t even think about light bulbs or batteries for the smoke detector until payday.

On my street, the utility companies come around and turn off everyone who’s even a little late, because if they have to come out for one or two, it’s just more efficient that way; and then many go without electricity for days until they can pay twice the bill (on payday) to get it turned back on, in the meantime trying to salvage food in a cooler, and taking the kids to the library because it’s either air-conditioned or heated—depending on the season –and it’s free.

On my street, many people have degrees, but they have to dumb-down their resumes because they are often over-qualified for available jobs, and they have learned to lie about already having insurance, because employers don’t want to pay for that, but even if they do have insurance, they can’t afford to use it.

On my street, mothers walk their children in second-hand strollers, wearing second hand clothes, suffering from a broken tooth they can’t fix because the check engine light has been on in the car for three months, and they don’t have the money to get it fixed, and they watch the other mothers sipping lattes in the cafes remembering when that was them once, and holding on to the hope that maybe one day they can have the money in their pocket for a cup of coffee.

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Just one street away

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Just one street away are the biggest, most expensive, most extravagant houses in the city.

Just one street away every house has at least two cars, every refridgerator is filled with food, every bed has soft sheets, every closet has clothes bought for and by the person who uses them.

Just one street away, couples are out to dinner, children are at soccer practice or dance class, teenagers are buying trendy trivialities because it’s their past time.

Just one street away, yards are filled with toys and climbers that could put a city park to shame, but you never see the children on them, because they are at their soccer practices or dance classes.

Just one street away, families are coming home from vacation, families are going on vacation; no one worries if they have enough gas to get to the grocery store.

Just one street away, someone has a doctor’s appointment, some one has a dentist’s appointment, and everyone has perfect teeth.

Just one street away, a mother goes to a cafe for a little “me time” because she has enough money in her pocket for a cup of coffee.

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