04 February 2008

Lines

Part of my employment includes helping people that have special needs or circumstances find a job; no easy task in my state right now for those who have everything going for them, let alone for some of the people that I work with.

I believe most of them are the grown versions of the children that I sometimes think don't have a chance in the world; I often find myself trying to craft them a resume while picturing their childhoods. (It's a dangerous combination when you work in the world of billable hours with an employer that wants me to bill every minute, when I feel as though there aren't enough hours in the day to give to them. It can weigh heavily upon you at times--trying to balance your checkbook and keeping your job with your conscience.)


There is one woman in particular that I cannot quit thinking about. She is 55 years old, stick straight, long brown hair, gray strands entwining themselves within what was once the type of hair that turned heads. Her face is lined; heavily. I thought with absolute certainty that she was at least a decade older when I first met her and shook her tiny hand.

During our first meeting, I took in her personal data and compiled my reports, marked her off my list, and then moved onto my next client. I met with her the following week and she caught me off guard when she sat down. "I haven't had hope for anything in a long time. I could hardly sleep I was so excited to get here today".

I'm not head-hunting a corporate position for this woman, I'm trying to find her something that pays minimum wage and will allow her to keep her rent-controlled apartment. And I was her hope? I was the reason she was excited to get out of bed in the morning? I turned off the rest of my brain and willed myself to focus upon her, and her only.


She hadn't always looked so old and worn. She brought me a photo of her in her youth. I think she carries it with her; a symbol, a reminder that once, she was young. She was smiling broadly at the camera, a hand on a very swollen belly, one of her eyes squinting against the sun in front of her.

"My husband took that picture, a few weeks before the twins were born". I looked to her ring finger. A thin gold band remained. "Is your husband still with you"? I asked.

She paused. "No. He kissed my belly two days after he took this, then headed back to Vietnam. I got a phone call thirteen days after they were born, telling me he was gone. He never did see them".

She smiled at me then, a small, sad turn upward of her lips, her eyebrows raised just a tad, and the lines in her face creased with greater intensity, and suddenly, I could see them--how the lines had gotten there. This woman, all these years, caught between a smile and a sob, missing a man she still aches for today, her eyes thinking they caught the back of his head in a crowd several times over the years, new little lines forming from each double-take.


The next week, I picked her up and drove her to an interview. She told me how she'd gone to Veteran's Services for Widows and asked them to help her with her heat bill, an eleven month old baby hoisted on each of her bony hips. She told me how they explained they couldn't help her, for furnaces were considered a luxury, not a necessity. They recommended a shelter for her, then told her they'd need to call the police if she didn't leave after she demanded they either let her talk to someone else or bring her husband back. "They acted like I really thought they could bring him back; like I didn't know he was gone. I knew he was gone; I was trying to make a point," she said. One more line upon her face.

I watched her walk through the doors for her interview; her steps in the new shoes we'd just purchased hesitant and unsure. She paused to look back at me before she opened the door, that small, sad smile gazing upon me. I gave her my brightest grin and then went into the bathroom to try to gain my composure.

I didn't think that she'd get the job, but the employer had agreed to at least give her an interview--she hadn't even had one of those in over ten years. I stared at myself in the mirror under the florescent lights, taking in the garish effect, and all I could think about was that picture of her, so young, so full of hope and promise, so excited about her tomorrows. "Can't do anything about it so get. it. together." I threatened the woman standing before me. "Now".

"How did it go"? I asked as I rose to meet her.

"I don't think it went very good," she whispered, her squinted eyes focusing not upon me, but upon an imaginary spot on the floor. A spot, perhaps, that led to some parallel place where life had happened very differently for her, a spot, perhaps, where instead of the lines upon her face being created from sorrow, they were created instead from smiling too much.


We drove to her home in near silence. I placed my hand over hers when we stopped in her drive. "It will get better, I promise. The first interview is always the hardest".

She nodded slowly and said, "I actually believe you. I can't believe that I do, but I believe that you really want to help me". She tilted her head as she waved goodbye after she shut my car door, the sun catching her just so; not so that I could see the girl from the photo, but so that I could see each line upon that once beautiful face.

When I got home, I kissed the Queens sweet, unadorned cheeks and foreheads, and when I prayed that night, I didn't ask that their faces remain always so, but instead that the lines upon their faces come from an over-abundance of sun and smiles.

And I prayed for her; my client, as I sobbed for the girl in the photo. The girl who had no idea what the future held for her; no idea what marks time would leave upon her soul and face, who had no idea that the only kiss that her husband would ever give to his children would be through her straining stomach, the girl whose face showed only a faint hint of lines as she squinted in the sun that day.

50 comments:

Loralee Choate said...

I don't even know what to say.
Except that you are getting my first ever "Perfect Post" nomination at Petroville for this.

I am now going to down a vat of Ben & Jerry's and feel immensely grateful for my life.

slouching mom said...

Oof. Jenn, this one broke my heart. I hope she finds something, anything, so that she can say at least one line on her face came from laughing.

Sigh. Lovely post.

flutter said...

Oh, Jenn. I wish I had more words to do this justice

liv said...

you're a good woman. thanks for sharing this.

jen said...

oh babe. this work you do is so important. the compassion you show, the hope you share. the belief you have in those you work with.

it matters so much.

Jennifer said...

Oh, Jenn. I'm trying to swallow down the big lump in my throat as I search for the right words. I just... Wow. This is so beautifully written and so incredibly heartbreaking.

merlotmom said...

Wow. Great piece. I feel like I was right there, like I know this woman. Beautifully written. Way to go.

mommypie said...

Jenn - such a beautiful post. Your compassion shines through and the gift you have given by passing it on is tremendous. Thank you for reminding me to give thanks every day for my life.

luckyzmom said...

So beautifully written. I pray she will get a job that allows her to keep her apartment and perhaps that also makes her smile occassionally. Such a beautiful heart you have.

Beth said...

Beautiful! So well written. Just perfect...

I am praying right now that this woman finds a job. Please keep us posted!

Lauren said...

That is so hard. I hope you are able to help her. It is scary how your life can change in an instant.

Lauren said...

That is so hard. I hope you are able to help her. It is scary how your life can change in an instant.

Vanda said...

You do very important work. This post made me cry and broke my heart.

Please let us know when she finds a job.

JeNNifeR said...

Wow. This was a beautiful post. It broke my heart. I hope this woman finds a job. Please keep us updated on her.

InTheFastLane said...

This is what I try to remember each day...every kid, every parent has a story. And so many of those stories will brake your heart. They all have faces and hearts and some of them even still have hope. I am glad you were able to give some hope.

MP said...

What a beautifully written tribute to a woman who is a real fighter. I sure hope that you are able to help her..how rewarding of a job to be able to offer someone hope.
I love that she has taken the first step..you are just pushing her through the door...

Trenches of Mommyhood said...

Your prose enraptures me.

Kimberly said...

You have such a good and pure heart, Jenn. That is the only way you could write something so captivating.

I know I will see her face in my mind all day...

Christine said...

oh god, my heart.

it seemed like there wasn't much hope for her getting the job--but i so want her to. I hope something works out for her soon.

Running on empty

Jen said...

If only there was a way everyone who might find themselves in a position to help this woman could read this post first, there's no way that they could turn her down.

Beautifuly written, hearbreaking, lovely.

Amy Y said...

That poor thing :(

You are such a great writer, Jenn. I could see her... lines and all.

KC said...

Oh, the poor woman. I'm so glad you are helping her. The price of war is so high-it kills me that we don't all share the burden.

Kerry said...

Wow. I am speechless. Have chills and am in awe of your beautiful post.

I encounter people every time I work (airline industry) and the older I've gotten the more I see them as people w/ a story instead of just another face. It helps my attitude toward them when they act up.

BetteJo said...

Oh you got me with this story. I would have a hard time dealing with that kind of thing - I would be so emotionally involved too.

I hope you are able to help her.

Blog Antagonist said...

My heart is broken for that poor woman. You're a kind and generous soul. No matter what happens, you should know that.

zdoodlebub said...

You are a truly gifted writer and person. Beautiful.

jeanie said...

That poor woman - I truly hope that you can make a difference for her.

Kelly said...

Your kindness is a lifeline. I hope that something goes her way very soon, and I know having you on her team makes her feel that someone cares for her.

Crow said...

She's lucky to have someone like you fighting for her!

CM said...

Wow. Thats all I've got. I feel ashamed now for all the times I have complained about my very blessed life.

justabeachkat said...

Beautifully written post! It breaks my heart to think of the heartaches so many suffer. There's a song I sang as a child that went something like this "Lord what have I ever done to deserve even one of the blessings you've given me?" That's always puzzled me....why do some of us have so many blessings when others have a lifetime of hardship. Thanks for the work you do and the compassion you show.

Hugs!
Kat

Family Adventure said...

Very moving, Jenn. I hope something positive happens for her. She is overdue for a lucky break.

Heidi

Jungle Mama said...

I love this post. Thank you so much for the wonderful story of this woman. I only wish it could end up in one of her journals. I pray for her too. And my own little pawns. Thank you for sharing.

luckyzmom said...

I have posted a picture of some of my paintings and thought you'd like a peek.

tiff said...

You are such an amazing writer. Your words are compelling, piercing through my heart.

bgirl said...

wow, jenn this is beautiful. your writing is incredible and through it i could see her face, her history. the thought of that kiss to her belly ... oh my heart breaks.

Major Bedhead said...

Wow. That was incredibly well-written. My heart aches for that woman... I'm going to go have a cry in the bathroom so I don't startle the babies.

deb said...

That makes me sad and angry at the same time. You'll find something for her, I know you will.

The world seems like such a mess sometime and I wonder, I'm sure many of us wonder, what the hell can I do? I'm just one person. But I think we can all make a difference. It doesn't have to be a big difference, it can be just helping one person at a time make their life better. You're a lucky woman to have this opportunity. I wish you both well sweetie.

Christy said...

It makes you stop and count the blessings you have in your life. My heart aches for the woman. You were obviously brought to her life for a reason and I pray for things to work out.

Omaha Mama said...

Wow. It is amazing, what you do. The compassion part, it gets us into trouble sometimes.

Hope is important. Do not underestimate just giving someone some genuine hope. Your efforts are important. All of them.

Janet said...

Heartbreaking.

I'm glad you're in her corner.

Anonymous said...

Wow. God bless her. And you.
-rbp

Seattle Mamacita said...

this was so tough to read because I think of my own students, struggling readers, just makes me realize that I could be the only person in their life to turn that light on..thanks for giving this lady the hope she's been waiting for.

Bon said...

oh damn, Jenn...this was so lovely, and so heartbreaking, however late i am coming to it.

i see too much of my own mother in that woman, and all the powerlessness rises in my throat again. i know what it is like to only be able to help someone a little, and to know that it is not enough, and was never fair.

Andrea said...

hey jenn. in case you didn't know: your laundry out. and it's tattered and frozen from the winter storms. and, quite frankly, i'm sick of looking at it. so could you PLEASE get off your arse and do something about it?!?! luv u!

Andrea said...

VERSION #2:
(OOPS! typo in version #1).
hey jenn. in case you didn't know: your laundry is out. and it's tattered and frozen from the winter storms.
and, quite frankly, i'm sick of looking at it. so could you PLEASE get off your arse and do something about it?!?!
luv u!

painted maypole said...

what a beautiful and moving post. bless you for helping her, for SEEING her, and so many others like her.

Mr Lady said...

That is so beautiful and touching. Great post.

bee said...

i'm here from loralee's...she did nominate you...and it's worth it. this is a gorgeously written piece...so sad.

i am so glad that you are helping more people to see this situation, and her...i'm so glad that you're seeing her.

Carrien said...

I'm here from the perfect posts, and I have tears in my eyes.