Drying A Stranger’s Tears

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I placed my lunch on the counter while talking to my co-worker Jenna about our first few hours using Dalet, a new writing/editing program. I was so preoccupied venting my frustrations and concerns I hadn’t even looked around me. I was fumbling with my cane and searching through my wallet for my value points card when I heard Jenna ask our regular cashier, Maria, if she was okay.

“What’s wrong?” Jenna continued. “Can we help?”

“I can’t talk about it but I could use a hug.”

Instantly, I was uncomfortable. I see Maria every day but I don’t know her. We exchange jokes and pleasantries but I don’t know her last name or where she lives. I’m also generally uncomfortable with affection. But, her pain was palatable. She tried to dry her tears but couldn’t stop them from flowing. Before I knew it she leaned forward and Jenna and I reached out her.

She wiped the water from her eyes as Jenna walked away. Then, Maria turned to me and apologized for needing comfort.

“Don’t be sorry,” I said. “You made our day. We were doubting if we’ve been doing anything well enough all day. Now, we know we’ve done something right. We came here, we saw you, and we made you smile. And, you know us, we’ll do anything to get a break from doing work. But, you should know I only give one hug a year to my friends. You’ve used yours up.”

Maria finally smiled then laughed.

#randomactofkindness #stranger #hug #chronicillness #chronicpain #lunch #disability #autoimmunedisease

 

Sweet Reminder Of The Power Of Small Gestures

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Today is refill Friday; the day I add candy bags to the bucket on my desk for my co-workers. So, that meant I had to I get out of bed fifteen minutes early despite joint point, nausea and spotty sleep. I slicked my hair back in a ponytail (it’s shedding again due to hormonal issues) and I slid into what used to be tight Capri pants (now loose due to uncontrolled weight loss). Remarkably, the NJ Transit 8:59 train got into Penn Station on time. Then, I got cut off at the stairs from the tracks to the concourse by able bodied people who never see not care about my cane. I shot a dirty look and got in line. I limped up to the first floor then made my way over to the store. I was in and out in five minutes and got a discount.

Suddenly, I came to a dead stop. A little person was clearing a space for his double amputee wife’s wheelchair near the number one train. The crush of people barely stopped so the man began to shout. His frustration struck a chord with me so I gestured for people to stop and they did. The awkward a smiles we got because of our appearance didn’t bother me. I took my candy and went onto work.
An hour later, a co-worker delayed going home to do me a favor. I got a doctor’s appointment easily and I heard from a friend who told me the other day that if he won the lottery he’d use some of the money to help me. I didn’t think the day could get better until o was greeted with this after lunch. It’s Hi in tootsie rolls; a sweet message to remind me that the smallest gesture can add so much joy to a day. #wabc #nyc #randomactsofkindness #disability #chronicillness #chronicpain #autoimmunedisease #igg4 #njtransit #pennstation

Creature Of Habit

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I am a creature of habit. I eat the something every morning at work to take my medication. I buy it from the same coffee cart. I get one of three lunch options. Ad, I refill the candy on my desk on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. When we go out to eat, my fiancé, his son and I tend to go the same places. We notice the servers but I never thought they’d remember us. After all, they serve dozens of people a day. Okay, the fact that we are an interracial couple with a woman using a cane and taking pills for an autoimmune disease might make us stand out. But, nonetheless, they see a sea of faces.
Yet, the other day my fiancé and I went to Bertucci’s in Connecticut for lunch. Our spirits were down and neither of us were feeling particularly well. We ordered but by the time our meals came we couldn’t eat. So, I asked for carry out containers and the check. The waitress returned with the boxes but the bill wasn’t there.
“I’m sorry. We’d like the bill.”
“I got it for you. Your meals are on me. You both always come in here upbeat and seem happy together. Today I can tell something is wrong. I don’t know what it is but it will be okay.”
“No, no, please take the money.”
“No, please let me. I do hope things work out.”
All I could say then was “thank you!”

We left her a $25 tip for making our day.
#randomactsofkindness #bertuccis #ct #waitress #disability #igg4 #autoimmunedisease #chronicillness #interracialcouple

A Gift from Beyond the Grave

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I almost never exclaim with glee in the newsroom. All too often I’m in the verge of tears because I’m covering one tragedy after another. But, this morning I was overcome with happiness. On my desk was a box containing candy from my late co-worker Mary Lilly’s husband, Jim. 

I hadn’t spoken to him she passed suddenly in December. The truth is I’m still in shock over the loss. I miss her stories, her kind words, her constant inquiries about my health and willingness to help, and her boisterous laugh. I miss my friend. 

Seeing that candy made the smile for the first time in months. Memories  of Mary providing lollipops and mints to the right side of the newsroom in edit room four came flooding back. I would supply the left side of the room.

I gladly shared that candy with my co-workers in her honor. I told everyone who gave us the unexpected treat. It was a sweet reminder of the little things Mary did to make every aspect of my life better.

#rip #marylilly #coworkers #randomactofkindness #tvnews #journalism #chronicillness #autoimmunedisease  #nyc 

I May Be A Cheap Date But Don’t Pity Me

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As I clutched my hip while climbing the stairs to NJ Transit, a woman said she hoped I feel better then she shook her head and looked me up and down. I could hear the pity clouding her words and see it in her face. But, I smiled anyway and thanked her, knowing my life, even with its challenges is blessed.

Within an hour, I had more proof that was true. My regular coffee guy welcomed me back to work, one week after my latest back procedure, by not charging me for my morning meal. Moments later, as I got to the door to my office with a bag in one hand and my cane in the other, the security guard rushed over to open it, moved the sign and buzzed me in. Just then, my co-worker, Brian, held the elevator and let me walk in first. As I stepped foot onto my floor, I received a cheerful welcome like I the kind given to a soldier who has returned home from war.

It appeared nothing there had changed but I had. I was already tired and hurt. The only thing that distracted me from my misery was that my co-worked John saved me from the task of buying my weekly candy stash by doing it for me and leaving it my drawer. Four people, Alex, Jay, Alexa and Kim immediately offered to help me with whatever I might need. All of this was before 10 am.

By lunchtime offers poured in to get my meal. Rather than accept, I took a short walk. The burning in my hip and numbness in my feet started to signal I’d come back to work too soon. As I leaned, hunched over my desk contemplating my poor decision making, Jay came over with a surprise; a bag containing two ice packs from his home that he’d give and retrieved during lunch.

“I’m not usually a cheap date,” I said. “But, I’m floored. These are better than any flowers, candy or card I’d ever seen.”

For the rest of the day, I sat with the ice on my back, blissfully free of any additional pain. I worked alongside my co-workers, nearly forgetting how my condition had almost made me give in.

When I rose at the end of the day to go home, my co-worker Mary came over to check on me; that’s when she learned I was running to the doctor. She stopped and reached to give me the money to take a cab there so I wouldn’t have to walk. Brian overheard and offered to give a ride any time I felt I couldn’t make it on my own. Of course, I refused the cash and the ride but my heart was bursting with joy. Mary didn’t give in. She was determined to aid me so she instructed Jim, a reporter and co-worker, to make sure I made it safely to the train.

I leisurely walked over to the number one train. I was oblivious to the sign that told me one was coming as I cautiously went down the stairs. As I got through the turnstile I heard the bell, telling me the doors were about to close. I looked up and good-looking stranger had his foot in the door. I waved to tell him to release it but he didn’t. He stuck his arm out and told me it was okay. I turned to thank him and he said it wasn’t necessary.

“It’s the right thing to do and I hope someone would do it for me,” he said.

I honestly didn’t know if they would but I know in my life when I am weak those around me carry me. The see my needs and meet them without being asked or requiring anything in return. I have more help than most people and that’s certainly nothing to pity.

Small Miracles Make My Life Possible

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I couldn’t catch my breath. I’d made it down two flights of stairs to my front door with my wedding dresses on my arm and a bag with the shoes I hope to wear on my big day on my shoulder. I’m not sure how I balanced it all while grasping my cane in the right hand.

I flung the front door open and staggered on top my small porch; that’s when I noticed my next door neighbor and friend, Monica, was outside. Even though mere inches separate our homes, I hadn’t seen her in days. I had been pretty bedridden following another back procedure to alleviate the searing pain when I walk.

With a spring in her step, Monica raced up her stairs, which are adjacent to mine. She reached over the bannister and grabbed the dress bags from my arms and sprinted over to my vehicle.

“Do you need me to carry anything else?”

“No, thank you,” I replied. “That helped me out a lot.”

As soon as I got in the car, I checked the time and noticed I had an hour to get to my appointment.

“That may be just short of the time it takes for my leg to fall asleep because it’s not in use,” I mumbled.

When I got to the helix leading to the Lincoln Tunnel, Ten, fifteen, then twenty minutes passed while I sat in virtually the same spot. I shifted as much as I could, to try to wake up my irritated limb. But, nothing worked. My foot became numb and my thigh and calf tingled.

I distracted myself by dialing the alterations shop to let them know I was running a bit late and texting my mother to tell her about my delay. Afterwards, I turned up the radio and punched on my leg, trying to wake it up.

I got off the west side highway at the 79th street exit fifteen minutes after my dress appointment was supposed to begin. So, I called my mother again to see if she had made it to the shop. As soon as she picked up, I heard her telling the receptionist her daughter was on the way.

Just then, I saw a space open up on 80th and Amsterdam Avenue. I quickly pulled in. Then, I took out my pill case, tossed my medication in my mouth and chugged a sip of water.

“Mom, it’s going to take me a few minutes to walk one long avenue and two blocks to get to you. Please let them know.”

Rather than repeating my message, my mom said, “I’ll be back. My daughter walks with a cane so I have to help her.”

I waited at my car until my mother arrived. She carried the dresses while I took the bag with my shoes. By the time we got to the dress shop, I was a half hour late for my appointment and a burning pain shot down my left leg.

At least half a dozen women, two young girls, one dad and a dog crowded the small shop on Columbus Avenue. The sofa and chairs strewn were filled to capacity.

I saw the familiar glance of curiosity as I limped in the door behind my mother. A few people stared but no one got up to offer me their seat. I had no choice but to stand and keep smiling, hoping I’d convince my mom I wasn’t in any pain.

An hour passed. I knew because the time on my phone went off, signaling it was time to feed my meter. My mother volunteered to hike back and add money.

“You go in and change,” the seamstress shouted.

“Forget it, mom,” I said, stopping her from leaving the shop. “Let’s do my fitting now.”

My mom and I marched into tiny dressing room that was made smaller by dresses left hanging on the wall hooks. There was nowhere to sit down so my mother held me up as I undressed and stepped into my wedding dress. She then stood up my heels and held me steady as I took my first steps in them in more than a year.

A sharp stabbing pain raced up the back of my leg and across my lower back with every step. My mom supported me on the left and used my cane on the right. Slowly, we made it to the pedestal; that’s when the seamstress finally made an effort to help.

“So what’s going on with this dress?” The seamstress asked. “It’s a bit small on the top.”

Slightly embarrassed, I blurted out, “Well when I bought it I was dealing with a Lymphoma scare so I was about 40 pounds lighter. Guess I gained some weight back.”

“Well, then it’s a beautiful dress,” the seamstress said. “You should shorten the dress because it doesn’t look like you’ll be able to wear these heels.”

Stunned, I replied, “No I intend to wear them on my wedding day. I’ll be well enough.”

I thought I’d fall or pass out before the end of the fitting. But, I took a few deep breaths and I made it through. I limped off the pedestal proud that, for at least a few moments, I was like every other bride at her first dress fitting.

My mother and I gradually made our way back to my car. I could feel my heart beating rapidly as I approached. As soon as we got within feet of the vehicle, I saw a ticket on the car behind mine. We were an hour over the metered time so I was all but certain I’d have a ticket too. I was wrong.

I’m surrounded by small miracles every day that make my life as a chronically ill person run smoother. My autoimmune condition makes it hard to eat, to drive or even walk at times. Perhaps it’s because I’m sometimes reliant on others that I see every instance of selflessness, generosity, kindness or support as the rare, merciful gift. So whether I’m getting a helping hand from a neighbor, taking pills to ease the symptoms of my condition, accepting an arm of support from a mother, or receiving a grace period from a meter maid, I believe, all the little acts make each day bearable, brighter, and better than the day before; these are my miracles.