Monday, March 1, 2010

Pay attention to the signs

One word I never payed much attention to the meaning- or it's warning.

China Doll and I were on a plane to Florida to visit family when I asked her if she would like to move -again.
I can remember her little voice was filled with excitement- asking if we can take Aurelia (our dog) and Clementine (our cat) and...
Aunt Debbie?!
I'm thrilled because I have my little gals full attention- so of course I ease her mind about taking our pets....but Aunt Debbie-probably not.
Why? Because Aunt Debbie doesn't like New York.
But what about eating at Pop Pops house?
Well....we can always go eat in Little Italy- it will be just like eating at Pop Pops.
Silence. I ended the conversation when China Doll became anxious to tell me about her dreams. She told me that she wanted to be a "vetranan" and she will go to the University of Busch Gardens for college. And have a white tiger as her pet. And I could live with her and the tiger! (a plane ride to remember)
Shelter life was busy. I found my job full filling, yet depressing. I even received Employee of the Year. I would accomplish finding a client the housing they needed, assisting them with employment and at times family counseling. Homelessness is something I can't even explain unless you have worked with this population or you've experienced homelessness. We would see the dark side- people coming from all walks of life. Messy lifestyles. Drug abuse. Child abuse. Sex addictions. Alcoholics. Criminals. People walking aimlessly wondering what is their purpose in life.
What is life?
At the end of the work day I was able to go home and hug my daughter. Eat and sleep in a warm cozy apartment. Have running water to take baths, wash our clothes and if I had the energy- wash my own car. I had a family who loved me. Friends who cared. A paycheck. I had everything they did not. And yet we all want more.
To get by on a "down" day in the shelter, our program coordinator would play my favorite crooner -Dave Matthews from her office. I would keep Hershey Kisses stashed in my desk drawer for a "lift" and we would have support meetings for the staff. But deep down inside I couldn't help but think how is it possible for me to change one life- touch one person to make a difference. Not just taking them to an appointment at the local clinic for birth control or a job interview or begging a slum lord to allow my client to rent their eye sore of a property. (I'm holding my tongue on the slum lords)
The shelter gave a 30 day stay. After the client would use their time up at the shelter, I wouldn't see them again, unless they came back 6 months later, or their probation officer called me or I would read their name in the paper -for something.
Except Ginny. At 83 she came to me. You could say I inherited her.
Ginny was full of zest and smelled of last weeks urine. She wouldn't change her clothes, more less take a shower (with soap) for all the free cookies she could eat! Her determination and wild spirit made my job a living hell. I would ask Ginny to please do this or that.....and she would tell me to kiss her assets. I would plead, beg, bribe, yell, sneer and then laugh. Her sense of humor was stolen from the old Ed Sullivan show- but her life experiences were one for me to pay attention to. I began to adore this street rat. I did it again- asking myself and is this frail woman living on the streets? Who is protecting her? Ginny would eat from dumpsters or eat the dog food she would purchase for her Pit Bull that she kept hidden in a boarded up city home. She was teased by kids at the bus terminal. And Ginny was denying my assistance. (as well as other agencies)
After having Ginny dragged through a court hearing, she was found incompetent and my street rat was placed in a nursing facility. She hated me for months. She blamed me for "ruining her life"....."you took my dog from me"....."you'll pay for this" . Pay? I was only doing my job. What I thought was right.
I waited a few months and took China Doll with me to visit Ginny at the brightly decorated facility she now called-home. After six months- I heard "glad to see you Lady Bug". Lady Bug was the name Ginny tagged me with due to the VW Beetle I drove at the time. I felt a sense of peace. I did accomplish something. Ginny was able to live out her life in this clean environment. Safely.
Ginny touched my heart in such a way- again, I can't explain it- I just know what it felt like.
I found myself wanting to be her voice, a voice for other seniors living on the be their strength and their fight.
She always told me that I had the attitude of a Pit Bull. Ah, Ginny....I do love that breed- but I don't think my attitude is that powerful. Or is it?

Life Lesson: Collect eggs.



  1. China Doll is so cute - the University Of Busch Gardens! And Ginny? Amazing - as well as you. This story keeps getting more and more fascinating!

  2. Thanks so much Emily....I really could write hours just on Ginny!
    China Doll was a little embarrassed that mom posted her story....but I just had to write about that precious moment. : )