Sunday, January 20, 2008

Unsung Heros

Have you ever had a guardian angel?

Growing up we had many. Two of these I mention as I think about the 4 scared little girls that were abandoned by a drunken mother who was depressed and broken. While she laid on the couch in a stupor, or barked orders from a chair, these beautiful women pondered our fate and believed we were worth saving; merited loving.

My mother was many things- loving, stubborn, shy, beautiful, smart, strong, fearful, and a drunk. She was amazing and disappointing all at the same time. I think she found it hard to love herself and it sent a ripple effect on those who tried to love her. Fortunately, we had guidance and protection along the way. If we did not have that, who knows where we would be today.

My mom did finally give up the booze after we left the home. Her doctor helped her by diagnosing her depression and put her on Paxil. This medication really helped- she was no longer a hermit, she stopped drinking and seemed to feel better about herself. It was nice to be with her without the booze in the way. She really was (is?) a beautiful person. Those who knew her, knew this to be true. I digress.


One of these guardian angels is my step mother. Her name is Carole and this is her picture to the right. This Christmas, instead of gifts, we showered one another with affirmations and put them typed in a frame to present to each person. Carole was overwhelmed with emotion when she received her gift from us. It was then that I realized that she may not know what an impact or gift she has been to us.

This is complicated in some ways. My mom would cry to me each night after my dad left. I would try to console her, but there is only so much a 5 year old can do. She hated my father for leaving her, and probably hated Carole even more. I actively practiced this hate when I would visit Papa and Carole- feeling that I would be betraying my mom if I let my guard down or liked them even in the smallest degree.

But, Carole continued to love me/us. And eventually, I made my mind up to believe in her love and succumb to it. She would involve us in her daily goings on, shared her home, talked and listened with interest to our stories about school or home. She encouraged our culinary skills, gave me a place to stay when I got kicked out of Mama's house, and played numerous Boggle games (teaming up with me to try to beat my dad- I think we may have won one or two times against him). In short, she actively loved some hard to love kids. I mean - she did not have to love us and we gave her heck of a lot of flack. I am almost embarrassed to look back on how stubborn I was (a quality I get from both Mama and Papa- double whammy).

So, Carole, if you are reading this: know that you are special. Know that you have been a big part of saving 4 little girls. Know that you are appreciated.

Grace. I knew I had come across a guardian angel when I first experienced Grace. She had a presence that permeated love and acceptance. She was a quiet person, had a simple smile and communicated respect for your journey- wherever you were going. She seemed to have faith that things would turn out ok- somehow. But, she certainly had a way of moving things along.

Grace came to my mother when she felt truly alone. Here Mama was, a single parent, 4 children (ages 5, 3, 3 and 1), and no real income except for welfare. Grace often helped us financially when we experienced a pinch. She also made it possible for us to have a home. She actually bought a house for us to live in and just gave it to us! I can hardly fathom that.

For my first communion, I did not have a dress, shoes or a slip- she made them appear (she bought lacy socks to match too). When bills became too much in the winter, an envelop was passed to my mom very privately. (I was an observant child so sometimes I noticed things that were not meant to be seen). As I was applying for college, Grace made sure I had a co-signer so I could attend. Had it not been for her, I may have not had a place to live, had a first communion or attended college. This is a very real fact.
I'd like to believe that I have an undying spirit that would have carried me through somehow, without her support, but I deal with folks in poverty every day, and I see how the tyranny of the moment kills that spirit. She made it possible for me to dream of bigger things. I did not have to worry about money or bills. I was able to focus. (We were definitely poor, but we lived comfortably most days. We did eat ice cream for breakfast many mornings.- but other than that, we had a warm house, clothes to wear, and the basics covered).
Grace did many other things besides financial support. She would come over and check on us, joined in family gatherings, brought communion when my mom could not get to church, and dropped off the Sunday paper. She would share the homily that the priest would give at Sunday mass and would say a short but sweet prayer to send us on our way. And at the time of my mom's death, she made sure she got a proper burial (even though she left us before Mama did).
What amazed me the most about Grace is that she lived into her name so well. She accepted us the way we were. Even though my mom was in the state she was in, Grace loved her anyway. It was obvious that Grace was a reserved person- not too kid oriented, yet she loved us- always kept and eye out. Grace was a messenger from God, a gift. She carried the message of compassion and mercy.
Grace was a third order nun. She wore regular (albeit very plain) clothes with an interesting necklace that represented her order. She took a vow of poverty, yet had money. She just shared it with others as they needed it. She was allowed to live among people- not in a convent and lived each day prayerfully and lovingly serving others. She was quite amazing really.
As I have said in a previous post- I have guardian angels all around me- some in fleeting instances and others in the day to day, life existence. How blessed am I! Thank you Carole! Thank you, Grace! I won't be able to repay you- but maybe-- just maybe, I can pay it forward.


Papa said...

OK- she's in tears.
Love, Papa

Carole said...

Erin, You made me feel like I was a
better person than I thought I was. My memory is being in the car with you while your sisters and Papa were watching Gen twirling the baton with the Slovenian Women Twirlettes. It was the first time you had gone with Papa and you hated him. Your mom was in a bad position and it was probably natural to put all the blame on him but she really put a lot on you and your dad really did and does love you and your sisters. I am still glad I married him and inherited four lovely and loving girls.


Erin said...

Carole, you have been a true gift to us. I really enjoyed our conversation tonight and I am so glad to hear that even though we struggled with the divorce so much and my mom's angst, that you found loving us as an opportunity.

You are a better woman than you give yourself credit for.
Love ya loads, Erin

Louie said...

Okay, so why is Erin kissing up to Carole? Hmm?

Ah, we love you Carole. Thanks for being a great mother/person/defender of squash-hating children. :)


Anonymous said...

Isn't it beautiful when God puts people where they need to be....he watches over the children and babies....I often thought that guardian angels are God's way of putting a hedge of protection around us to keep us safe and to guide us to safer grounds....I know I have guardian angels because I always ask in prayer that God keeps them around me and my loved ones on a daily comforts me to know that I am being watched over by a power greater than anything or anyone....he never forsakes us nor does he deny us when we ask....and to all of the Unsung Heros, I say "thank you" for doing God's work!!!!