By Blaney Pridgen
All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.
Joe was weary, dead weary from a series of very bad luck, which could not possibly have any providence to it. He had just lost his job at the factory, which the faceless, soul-less, rich guys had moved to Mexico. He knew he had a patriot’s heart, but these guys were nothing less than traitors to the nation he had loved. Then, he lost his home and almost worst yet his health insurance. To top it off Mary Anne was unexpectedly pregnant. Where would they go and what would he do when he got there? At least he had enough severance to get to a city where there were opportunities, he hoped. Joe had always believed that nothing would come his way that he could not somehow handle, but this was a grim test of his faith. The night he and Mary Anne planned their desperate journey, his grandma Annie came to him in a dream. From the other side, that he half believed in, she assured him that God was on the side of good boys, and he was one of them. This gave him something close to hope but not quite. Hope seemed silly. He had to trust whatever wits he was born with.
Mary Anne wept on again off again all the way to the city. Joe heard in her silence between the tears the power of her pondering. He could sense her faith in him and in something else. He wished in windshield time that he could have some of that faith too. Joe would just have to let her faith be enough for the both of them and trust that if nothing else.
It was almost dark and rush hour, when they came into the out-skirts. Joe hated the idea of moving from the home he lost in the hills to some unknown rental and unfound job in a city which was blinding him with bumper-to-bumper streams of nameless people going to nowhere houses in treeless neighborhoods. The lies of politicians and the power of heartless titans who owned them had done this to him. Then, why just then, Mary Anne’s water broke, and she slipped stoically into labor. And Joe’s heart broke as he flowed into despair.
The nearest hospital was hard to find, or he thought it was the nearest. The city was speckled with hospitals, engines of the health industry, each richly advertising for their share of the sick and broken. The emergency room was stacked deep. The pandemic was raging. He quickly discovered that he would need to find another hospital. There was absolutely no bed in that shiny marble mystery for his Mary Anne and child. But it would prove too late to move on. She was on the move in a grimy hospital garage for the mystery of new life in the bed of a pick-up truck.
The third floor of the parking garage was exactly like those in crime movies where bad things happen. Joe parked as far away as he could from the elevator, where sad and serious strangers moved in and out like ghosts in overcoats in the harsh glowing of security lighting, casting an atmosphere like a nightmare just beginning. As he dumped their salvaged belongings onto the greasy concrete and into the backseat cab, the first of four little miracles occurred. A security guard appeared and began to help him.
His name tag said Barry Ball, but he might as well but he might as well have been named Angel, when Joe had at first glance had expected a hassle. As soon as they had a conglomeration of blankets and towels spread out for Mary Anne, Barry was quickly off to find them some food from the hospital cafeteria. All he said several times was, “That’s why I’m here, I got you guys back.” Then, even before Barry returned, a nurse off-shift appeared from the elevator and came their way. She was already on task helping Mary Anne deliver, before she introduced herself as Gabby. Gabby, she said was her family’s nickname for Gabriel. Joe wondered why any parent would name a girl that, but she did seem on the tomboy, sturdy shoe side of a woman’s world. Joe was beginning to get the message that even though other things seemed to always happen so does goodwill and a bit of peace in the midst of misery.
Who could imagine that a homeless person, a rag wrapped, dirty old woman with a banged-up grocery cart full of dirty belongings, would be the third thoughtful visitor? Barry had looked the other way many times when she took shelter in a dark corner of the garage. Minnie Melon demanded Barry’s big black flashlight as though he was her employee. Then, she somehow climbed up the hood and onto the cab of the truck. Sitting cross-legged like an unlikely Buddha, she held the light on Gabby and Mary Anne below, and her baby was born.
Other visitors came but were not so thoughtful. They were of the few night people moving to and from the elevator. Most of them paid no attention at all. They were too absorbed in weariness or grief, or duties not done or duties to come to pause and see from where the little sounds came or to wonder at an old street person perched on a pick-up truck. A few wandered over to rubberneck at what might be happening. Barry told them to leave or at least keep their distance. Joe did not even see them. All he could see was a mother and her child haloed by a flashlight. Mary Anne encouraged Barry to let them come closer and see. So did Minnie, who began to hum some little tune like a lullaby. The visitors backed away into the darkness. Car doors slammed. Engines cranked. Slowly the garage emptied as the night advanced. At first dawning, Gabby was among them heading home for a few hours sleep before her next shift.
Finally, the fourth miracle visitor arrived in the early morning light. He was an obstetrics resident coming to work. He was quick to get the family into the hospital. Barry pushed the wheelchair. Minnie stopped at the door and wept happily as the five moved out of sight. Soon, Joe, Mary Anne and their baby girl moved out of sight of the cold city on their way to another place where work and a new home might happen. This part of their story had a happy ending, but other chapters were not so happy. They, like everybody else, went through ups and downs, tragedies and triumphs. But this was something like a miracle, which is always a chance for new beginnings, a little bit of light in a night’s journey. And, whether or not you believe in angels, there were four ordinary folks who were like angels for Mary Anne and Joe and their daughter, whom they named Spirit.
In these difficult times as we approach Christmas, we might pause amid the hurlyburly to find our angels, the absolutely human ones, or let them find us. We might also hope to become an angel too.