Monday, October 24, 2005

I believe in fate

I was washing dishes at my kitchen sink and I noticed a woman on the sidewalk on my side lawn with her black lab. She was bent over with a plastic bag. I thought...what a nice neighbor, picking up after her dog. But as I stood at my window she seemed to be there for an unusal lengthy time, at least 15 minutes. I thought she couldn't be cleaning up after her dog all this time. I grabbed my jacket and went outside and approached her and said that I was just curious what she was doing. Of course, the poor thing became a little nervous and stammered as she explained to me that while she was picking up after her dog she noticed this particular weed that she too had in her lawn that killed her lawn and resulted in her having to replant her lawn, so she started to pull the weeds up. She had a plastic grocery store bag filled with the weeds.

So I listened. She showed me the weed and explained that she took it to a nursery and they confirmed that it could kill your lawn. It has shallow roots and is easy to pull up but it can spread rapidly. The only thing that will kill it is Round-Up but it will kill your lawn too.

So I listened some more as I bent over and started pulling weeds with this stranger on my lawn. She told me that she has cancer and that she had both breasts removed and that the meds they gave her did a lot of damage resulting in her having to have continuous chemotherapy instead and then she has some secondary illness as well, fibromyalgia. She seemed to know my last name and went to school with my brother-in-law. I didn't tell her that he passed. I shared that I was no longer married and she looked up sorrowfully and said she was sorry she didn't know. I said, how would you know. She said that my yard always looked nice and didn't show the signs of divorce; overgrown lawn, etc.

She was dressed in flannel bedroom pants, rubber garden clogs, Columbia jacket, baseball cap, no make-up and her hair pulled back in a pony-tail. She went on to tell me that her neighbors think she's crazy, because of the way she dresses but that tight clothing is painful for her. Add to the fact that she's spent a lot of time pulling weeds in her front lawn. I could tell that friends and neighbors have pulled back from her and this was hurtful to her. I'm thinking, that when we need people most they disappear as if they fear your problems...your cancer or whatever it may be that is ailing you. So I listened about long friendships that left her because this woman who was dealt a lot can't bring herself to apply make-up or style her hair and manage to put on clothes acceptable to others.

I'll be honest, I had moments that seeped into my thoughts wondering if she had mental health issues, just as she was telling me that people think that of her. She told me she was greatful for her mother whom she speaks to daily. She told me that her husband was very supportive when she had both breasts removed. She told me stories of her two girls being resentful because for the last six years their mom has been sick and they were 13 and 14 when she was first diagnosed and mom isn't capable of being super-mom or super-wife any longer. She used to be an executive at a large insurance company and had 10 people reporting to her. It sounded like quite a dynamic job, traveling and commuting a lot. But she never missed a soccer game and was ever present at school for her girls.

So I'm thinking, if all this illness has caused her some mental health issues, does that make her any less of a person to care about? And I'm not conviced that this is the case at all. I think she needs some love and understanding, some T.L.C. She sounds like someone who did everything at home and now that she is no longer capable she is being resented especially by her two girls, mostly the youngest, who tells her things like she is a loser and she is worthless. She admitted the hurt that this has brought her. She loves her daughter and to hear such cruel words aimed at her breaks her heart. Of course it would. So I told her about when I broke my ankle 2 years ago and dealt with the same issues. The resentment from my family that I wasn't able to do the laundry, the grocery shopping, etc. That if I was lucky they might remember to toss me a bottled water before they left for the day. I was in a thigh-high cast and couch ridden because I had to have my leg elevated above heart level besides that fact that I was in pain and adjusting to this big cast. So we continued to share stories and pull weeds.

Eventually I invited her in the house to use the bathroom and wash her hands. Then we sat on the deck. To my surprise she lit up a cigarette, explaining that she quit smoking 23 years ago but with all the stress she started up again. She sneaks so her family won't know. So she had 2 cigarettes and also had a can of Lysol that she sprayed herself with to take the smell of smoke away so her family won't know. I was startled between the cigarettes and the Lysol she sprayed on herself, thinking of the toxins she would absorb into her already delicate system. I started to walk her back home.

As we walked I noticed that same weed bordering all the neighbors yards the whole walk back to her house. I looked at her and pointed out the weeds as we walked. I told her that it was no mistake that she bent over and pulled weeds from MY yard prompting me to come out and ask her what she was doing. That fate brought us together because one of us needed it and not necessarily her...that we may never know why but that it IS. She said she never shared so much with someone before, especially someone she didn't know. It was obvious to me that she no longer feels beautiful, mostly because of the whispers from her neighbors and friends about her appearance. I told her she is a beautiful woman and to hell with the neighbors.

I left her at her yard. I felt a little emotionally drained and guilty for the things I didn't do on this morning, such as go to church as I planned and clean my house that was very much needed. But I felt good about taking the time for someone who needed it. I felt like I did go to church that morning. I wish her well.


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