I got the call this morning.
I had been expecting this call for weeks. And like these calls tend to go, it came at an inconvenient time.
I was picking blueberries, enjoying the warm sun and the time with just my daughter. We talked about berries and her loose tooth and how nice it was that she was helping. We were out on a little farm, near the village of Boring, Oregon. After picking, I was planning on hitting my favorite farm stand, in Boring, and then heading home to sort and process the 16 pounds of my favorite summer berry.
But, my mom called. Her voice was panicky. She was at the Subway near by, getting sandwiches. Lois had to be out of her house this evening. No one was available to help. Could I come?
I’d already promised my amazing daughter an ice cream cone, I told her. And I don’t care how much trouble the world is in, if I promise my kids something, I will move heaven and earth to get it to them. I’m that kind of mom. And my son was with Velah and I needed to figure out how that was going to work out…
I told her I’d call her back.
Lil D and I made our way to the Dairy Queen. We ordered some real food and some ice cream for dessert, and I collected my thoughts. I texted Velah and told her I’d pick up my boy by two instead of her dropping him off at my house, and let Mr Awesome know about the change in plans for my afternoon. I called my mom back and told her I was on my way. After we ate, I dropped the berries off at home and headed out to NE Portland to help this poor woman.
Now, let me back up a bit. A month or so ago, My Awesome and I were called in to help Lois move some books. My mother warned me that she might be “a bit of a hoarder”. Honey, she’s a bit of a hoarder like Penn Jillette is a little bit Atheist. We packed the back of my SUV and the bed of my mom’s pickup truck so tightly it was hard to get stuff back out again. Lois had inherited the mess from her husband who died a year ago, and his mom. She was living in that house and had to get out, because her brother-in-law wanted the property back. We told he we’d come back, anytime, just call. We wanted to help, for all that we never wanted to set foot in that awful, smelly, dirty place again.
She had a sewing machine on the porch. And honest-to-goodness treadle machine, something I have been lusting over for years. On Monday, Mr Awesome and I went to pick it up, and it looked like nothing in the house had been touched.
One day, I guess, Lois’s children came down from Washington and helped her move a few things.
No one, except my mom, had checked in on her. No one from her church had offered to help. No one realized this woman was drowning in her possessions, her mental illness making it seem like living in a garbage dumb was a normal thing.
When they asked if she was ok, IF THEY ASKED, she said she was fine. No one double checked.
Boys and girls, I want to say this again.
A WIDOW belonging to a CHRISTIAN church was in trouble, losing her home, drowning in her own filth WAS NEVER HELPED. Until my mother, disabled and also a widow, came to my husband and myself, people both very far from faith of any sort, and said, “Hey, I have a friend, and I think she is in trouble.”
Correct me if I am wrong, but didn’t the bible have a word or two to say about widows, or the elderly, or the poor?
So, today, I am on her doorstep, in my tattoos and my Tootsie Pop t-shirt, hauling fabric and plastic flowers down a narrow, slippery staircase and breathing through my mouth. I got an antique radio out of the deal, and a new Crockpot, as well as a bashed thumb and a strained hamstring. I guess two of the men of the church finally checked on her this morning; they left just before my mom arrived. I was there all of about 3 hours, and I feel like a gorram vulture for taking a little old lady’s stuff.
When I left, Lois was waiting for her neighbor to come help her with the last of it, and I felt awful for not being able to do more. I take some comfort in the idea that at least I could do a little.
I got my blueberries in the freezer tonight after dinner. I took some ibuprofen and a few beers, and that is helping the sore spots. Tomorrow is my 34th birthday.
Tomorrow, the men with the dumpsters are coming and taking away what I could not. Tomorrow, that isn’t Lois’s home anymore. Tomorrow, her stuff becomes garbage, and she starts building a new life. I hope that the folks who are supposed to help her actually do, this time. I hope she can get help for her illness, because that is what hoarding is, an illness. I hope she can get help for her depression, I hope that the new apartment means a fresh start.
And I know I beat this horse a lot, but for Bob’s sake people, love one another. Help a neighbor out. Get off your ass and do something positive for the world. Smile at someone. Do something nice for someone, and do it today. Please. It sounds cheesy but it might be more important than you realize.