Today took an unexpected turn. I was heading over to my car with a full night ahead. On my way to my car I was thinking of all the things I had to do tonight, and extremely tight on my time. As I was getting into my car, an elderly woman approached my car. She seemed a bit winded and out of sorts. Rushing up to my car calling “Miss! Miss!”. She was carrying a few bags and exclaimed she was just kicked out on the street and had nowhere to go. She was short on her weekly rent only $30.00 and has not eaten in two days. She asked me if I could give her a ride to the supermarket, as her friend worked there and could lend her some money. She explained to me, she just finished her chemotherapy treatment, and was feeling weak, she could not possibly walk there.
I assisted her into my car, and gave her a ride to the store. The store was not just up the road as she initially said, but how could I leave her in the parking lot. In the car on the way to the store, she shared with me bits and pieces of her life. Her husband had just passed away 7 weeks ago. They were married 32 years after meeting in Sunday School together. Originally from Maryland, she came to New York when their doctor transferred to New York. She said “When you think that is the only way you are going to make it, you do what you have to do.”
She told me about the last memory she shared with her husband, Although he was ill with cancer as well, his health seemed to be improving as he was talking and moving around a bit. He asked her to run to the store to pick up some Pralines & Cream Ice Cream. (She forgot that she had just bought some the night before with a buy 1 get 1 free coupon). When she came home, she found he had passed away.
She did not know anyone in New York, and her daughter back home in Baltimore was paying her medical expenses, She was even taking the train home next week after her last chemotherapy treatment. Her social worker had helped her find housing after her husband passed where she could pay her rent weekly. She shared an apartment with a woman who also was suffering with cancer.
Today, after her chemotherapy treatment, she went home only to find all of her belonging were left on the street because she was short on the rent. Not only had she lost her husband 7 weeks ago, is undergoing chemotherapy, but she was now homeless. She lifted up her wig and showed me her thin hair, and said she has lost most of her hair since beginning the Chemo.
She began searching through her bag looking for her phone and pulled out a plastic bowl. She said that was her bowl she carries with her if she got sick, because the medicine had made her very sick. She said she had not eaten in 2 days because she only had 6 pennies to her name. She had pain medicine she could take but cannot take it on an empty stomach and she was in a great deal of pain.
My heart was breaking, and felt my eyes filled with tears. She had struggled with her speech and as she was crying, had gotten herself so upset she was stuttering on her words. I talked to her a bit and tried to calm her down, reminding her she will be back with her family in just another week. All she needed to do was get through this last week and she would be reunited with her family back in Maryland.
When we got to the supermarket where her friend worked, she was so scared I was going to leave her there. I promised her I would be waiting when she leaves the store. After she went into the store, and knowing I had no cash on me, I went into the store to go to the ATM. Not knowing if her friend was giving her money or not, I planned to give her the $40. I figured it covered the rent, and would have money left over for food. When I returned to the car, she was already there waiting for me, crying. She started to me tell me she did not know where she would sleep tonight and just wanted to go home. It was so hard to compose myself, and not cry myself. I gave her the $40.00. She was so happy she just kept saying how she was not going to have to sleep outside tonight. She asked to borrow my phone to call the place she was staying to let them know she had gotten the money together. (She only had til 6pm, and the woman was going out-of-town – it was now 5:15)
She asked if I could bring her back to the apartment so she could give the money to the woman where she was renting the room. So we drove back to the apartment, and she dropped off the money, We met the deadline of 6pm, and now she could go pick up her belonging that were left at the police station. She said when they kicked her out, they left her belongings at the police station? (the story was starting to not make sense)
We headed over to the police station, as soon as we got there she jumped out of the car, thanked me and was on her way. I sat in the car surprised and reflective. So many thoughts running through my mind…. If she was picking up her belongings and they were truly left at the precinct, how would she get them back home? Why did she not need a ride back to her apartment where she was staying? Something just did not feel right, but I could not put my finger on it.
When I drove away, I was feeling torn, On one hand, her story moved me so much and she was so emotional, how could I even begin to second guess everything she told me? What kind of person was I? But I could not help but feel in my gut, something did not feel right.
Then my phone rang.
It was the number I had dialed for her just less than an hour ago. A younger man on the other end of the phone, aggressively asking …. WHO IS THIS? …. WHY DID YOU CALL MY PHONE? …. WHY ARE YOU CALLING ME? And then proceeded to curse me out for calling his phone. I did not even mention, that it was for this elderly woman who had just lost her apartment. After all this number, was supposed to be the other older woman she was sharing an apartment with?
I have accepted, I will never know. In my heart on the moment, I did the right thing. I will always be left wondering, what happened to her? Was her story real? Is it possible it was simply drug money and I contributed to her habit?
I choose to believe I helped her.