The twenty-fourth has rolled around. I am going to submit another story from a picture challenge I posted not long ago on Creative Writer’s. I’m not very good at getting the photo’s to show on my blogs. I’m not sure which code I am to use but the picture was of a bunch of purple crocuses standing tall and proudly blooming in the midst of snow. This is the story that goes with them . . .
I never realized how fragile life was until I got the phone call my husband was dead. Forty-five years old, young considering and yet he was gone. I was visiting my brother when it happened, a heart attack. He was in a high stress job, management, still I expected another thirty or more years, not the brief eighteen we had. I was left to raise my two teenage sons alone. That day was the epiphany of my life. I learned I didn’t have ‘forever’.
I walked through life in a fogged whirl afterwards; the funeral was a blur, the insurance check, the friends and family who offered condolences. I nodded and said thank you but I didn’t really grasp the concept of what I was saying . . . or doing.
That fog covered me for five years. During that time my boys grew-up, one graduating with honors, the second causing nothing but trouble. Money was getting short, too. I had invested the insurance money, which did good the first three years but in the second half of the fourth, the market crashed. I lost everything. Here I was, fifty years of age, hadn’t worked in twenty years and yet I was forced to look for a job. Who would hire me?
As the weeks went by and I went on interview after interview without results, I decided to go back to school. I enrolled in college, electing to become a Medical Assistant. It was a long and tedious two years but I graduated with honors the same year my first son graduated college with a degree in engineering.
My second son was still troublesome. He couldn’t hold a job for long, dropped out of college, and to make matters worse, I found out he had been stealing from me. Every piece of jewelry given to me by my mother and my husband was gone, even our wedding rings. I was devastated he could do such a thing.
“We’re not supposed to be poor,” he screamed when I confronted him.
“But we are,” I shouted back, “and you took the only means of helping us get out of debt and get back on our feet. I have student loans to pay, food to put on the table, a house to maintain. How could you?”
“Because I hate you! The wrong parent died.”
His words were knife in my heart. “Get out,” I told him, “and never come back.”
I called his brother and asked him to be with me while he gathered his clothes and left. Then I changed the locks and sat down on the couch and had a good cry.
Nothing was working out. Everything had gone downhill since my husband’s death. No mattered what I did, the investments, going back to school, getting a degree, it all ran into dead ends. I couldn’t find a job. I didn’t want to think it was my age but the thought nagged in the back of my mind.
“The economy is bad,” I heard day after day, interview after interview. “You’re well qualified but you have no experience. I’m sorry.”
How can I get experience if no one was willing to give me a chance, I wanted to scream. Instead I nodded and left. Each day I struggled to make ends meet. Each hurtle I faced only embittered me all the more. It wasn’t fair that I should have to work so hard in the latter years of my life. This was when things should be easy, not difficult. Why me, I silently asked God.
Why not you, echoed back. I closed my mind to it simply because the truth hurt.
I ended up taking a job cleaning offices. I couldn’t wait to find a job in my profession. I needed money now. Pride be damned. It was hard work, but I did it as I did anything: to the best of my ability. Besides all those years being a housewife had taught me how to clean real well, not that my employers cared. They just wanted the job done . . . and fast.
That, I later found out, was the key. I didn’t get enough offices cleaned so when I was suppose to get a raise and insurance after six months on the job I was let go. It was early spring, April when I walked outside with my last check. What was I going to do now, I wondered.
Angered welled as I walked home. I elected to walk in order to save gas. Prices on everything were going up . . . everything except my income.
It was cold, the sky overcast with clouds threatening rain. When they finally let loose it was snow . . . lots of it. Great! I didn’t wear my boots and these were my only shoes. What else could go wrong?
Gathering my coat closer to me, I lowered my head as a sharp wind began to blow. The park I passed daily was as empty as I felt. Overburdened by grief, I sat on a bench and covered my face with my hands. I can’t do this anymore, God. Please take me home.
As I sat there having a pity party, there was a squeal of tires, a scream, and then a thud. Looking up I saw a car fishtailing as it sped away. Six, five, O, L, three, nine. The numbers and letters of the license plate stuck in my head. But what did the car hit?
Through the whirlwind of snow I saw a crumpled heap by the curb. My heart rose in my chest. It can’t be, I thought. It can’t. Jumping up, I ran over and my fear was confirmed. It was a child, a young girl. A small amount of blood stained the pure snow on the side where her face lay. My medical training told me to be careful. If there are broken bones, which I was positive there were, one wrong move could mean life or death. Still I couldn’t stand by and do nothing.
Someone, a woman, ran up to me, pulling out her cell phone.
“Call 911,” I ordered. “I’m a MA. I’ll see what I can do until they get here.”
She was a young woman, not much older than my sons, yet she called it in. I gently turned the girl over and saw she wasn’t breathing.
“Come here,” I yelled, not caring if I startled or scared the woman. “I need your help.”
She didn’t hesitate. “What do you want me to do?”
“Have you had any CPR training?”
“No.” She looked at me with nervous brown eyes and yet within them I saw determination.
I positioned the child’s head back to open her airway. “Come here. I am going to compress her heart. When I tell you, pinch her nose and then breathe into her mouth.”
I got into position and began to massage her heart. “One, two, three, four, five,” I counted to myself then, “Breathe!”
I don’t know how long we were at it. It seemed like forever but just as the ambulance turned the corner the girl coughed and then started to breathe on her own. I stayed with her until the paramedics took over.
I gave a statement to the police who arrived behind the medical personnel, telling them what I saw and giving them the numbers that stuck in my head. At the time I thought nothing of it but now I know God must have made me remember them. Justice was a heartbeat away, I thought as I was driven the rest of the way home by an officer.
Sleep evaded me that night. I worried about the child and prayed she was alright. None of my troubles compared to what that poor child was possibly going through. The next morning there was a knock on my front door.
I looked out the peep and saw a man in a long overcoat. He had brown hair and clear blue eyes. I opened the door a crack.
“Yes?” I asked.
He looked like he had been through the wringer. “Are you Margie Wright?”
“You don’t know me but I came here to thank you. You saved my daughter last night with your quick thinking. The woman who called the hit-and-run in said you are a MA.”
“Your daughter?” Oh my! This was the child’s father. I opened the door. “Do come in. I’m sorry if I seemed hesitant, it’s just that I’m leery of strangers.”
“With good cause.” He gave me a weary smile and stepped into the foyer.
“Can I get you a cup of coffee?”
“Please. I’ve been up all night.”
He slipped his coat off and laid it on the back of a chair before following me into the kitchen.
“How do you like your coffee,” I asked taking two cups from the cupboard. “I must admit that I haven’t slept all night either worrying about her. Is she okay?”
“Black is the answer to your first question and yes to the second. Your quick thinking saved her from permanent brain damage. The Dr. you work for is lucky to have such an exceptional employee.”
I blushed. Setting the coffee before him, I sat. “I’m not employed,” I admitted. “My husband died suddenly from a heart attack seven years ago and I needed a job so I went back to college. No one would hire me after I graduated, even though I passed the exam in the top six. I guess 52 is too old.” I couldn’t keep some of the bitterness from creeping into my voice.
I looked down, embarrassed I let it out so I didn’t see his look of surprise. When his fingers curled around mine I looked up.
“I am sorry to hear that, and yet I’m not. Please allow me to introduce myself. I am Mark Summers, Dr Mark Summers, head of Pediatrics at Avery Hospital. I, too, am a widower, my wife dying of cancer exactly seven years ago also. Consider yourself hired Ms. Wright.”
I was stunned to say the least. Last night I sat on the bench in the park asking God to take me out. Instead He opened a door. Seeing that child crumpled in the street made me realize life was too precious to simply throw away.
“Why . . . why thank you Dr. Summers.”
“Mark,” he corrected, “and you’re welcome. It’s the least I can do for the woman who saved Annie’s life.”
We talked for a while longer, then coffee or no, the fatigue finally caught up. Mark felt it too and left, making me promise to come to his office tomorrow morning. As I was about the shut the door behind him, I noticed a bunch of purple crocuses poking up through the snow, blooming despite the adversity of the weather. I planted them there eight years ago and in all the time since, I had failed to see their beauty.
Or perhaps it was when I wanted to live again that I finally saw life.