May 9th, 2021
“I thought you said that people had offered to come here and help. Who do we call?”
Karin asked that with intense anxiety in her voice. She was sick, very sick. Karin had received her first COVID shot that day before, and it was kicking her ass. She feverish, sweaty, and exhausted. Karin was holding Asher in her arms, trying to get him to sleep, so she could sleep. Asher was being fussy and uncooperative.
I was tired and my back hurt. I had been up with Asher since 5:00 AM, and I had tried everything I knew to get Asher to relax. He was having none of it. It wasn’t anybody’s fault. He was just having a rough morning. We were all having a rough morning.
I had in fact told Karin that a few people had offered to come over to help us. Four of our friends had said to us, “Call me if want me to come and watch the baby for a while.” Each of them had made this offer sincerely. However, each of them had the unspoken disclaimer: “I will come when I can”. Nobody had told us, “I’ll be glad to come any time, day or night.” None of them wanted to be on the receiving end of a 9-1-1 call. I understand that. People have busy lives, and they usually need some forewarning.
However, we needed somebody to come right away. We couldn’t wait.
I made some calls. I knew that two of the folks who had volunteered to babysit were currently at work, so I didn’t bother them. I left a message on voicemail for another person. I finally got hold of Joanna. She was far away from home, waiting to catch a plane back to Milwaukee. She said that she would contact her mom to see if she could visit us.
Joanna got back to me and said that her mother, Kim, would come to our house after she had her hair cut. I was good with that. I told Karin that Kim was coming here. Karin was too tired to react. I took Asher for a while.
Kim called me shortly after that. She said that she had our address, and that she would be driving to our house soon. She told me,
“I will be wearing a mask for your protection. I have had both shots, but I will still wear a mask.”
I did not know Kim. Neither did Karin. A total stranger was coming to our home, and that seemed to be a good idea at the time. It turned out to be a great idea.
Kim took a really long time to get here. I grew anxious. Asher grew restless. Karin slept.
A car pulled into our driveway. A tiny old woman climbed out of the car, and walked to our door. She was wearing her mask. I opened the door for her while holding Asher in my arms. Kim pulled off her shoes and put on slippers as she entered the house.
We sat at the dining room table. Kim cradled in her arms. He gazed at her with curiosity.
Kim apologized for taking so long,
“I don’t like driving on the highway. The cars go so fast. I worry about missing the exit. I took the back roads. I had the GPS on my phone, but somehow I had the sound off, and I had to keep stopping to look at what the directions were.”
Kim asked me, “How is your wife?”
Kim smiled. I couldn’t see her mouth, but her eyes were smiling at me. My brain filled in the blanks.
She said, “You should go and check on her.”
I did. Karin was dead to the world.
I came back to Kim and Asher. Asher was getting hungry. I made him a bottle, and Kim fed him. She held Asher easily, even though holding him is like cradling a twenty pound bag of cement in your arms. She asked me,
“Do you want to lie down?”
“No, I would rather sit and talk with you.”
That’s what we did. For hours.
Kim told me about herself. She had been born in Singapore in 1938. That means that she spent her earliest years under the Japanese occupation in World War II. I told her that Karin was from Germany, and that I had married her when I was in the Army.
We talked about Catholicism. Kim’s faith is what drives her. It struck me that her faith is real. She’s not a talker. She’s a doer. As it says in the Letter of James,
“Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.”
Kim talked about the years of caring for her handicapped son, and how the time and energy and money she spent on him was worth it. She never thought of him as a burden. She kept saying what a blessing he was in her life.
She said, “It taught me about what is important in life, and about the many things that are not important.”
I told Kim that Asher was a blessing in our lives.
Kim bounced Asher gently in her knee. She smiled with her eyes again and said,
“Of course he is.”
Kim told me about being attracted to Catholicism at a very young age. She went to daily Mass on her own, simply because she wanted to do so. Somehow that reminded of the book “Life of Pi”. The main character in the novel goes to a Catholic school in India as a child. Pi remarks in the story that Christianity is a religion “with few gods, but much violence”. I decided not to mention that to Kim.
As our conversation continued, I told Kim that I participate in Zen practice. I mentioned to her my friend, Ken, from the synagogue.
Kim told me, “When we had our business, we had people working with us who were Buddhist or Muslim. when there was a crisis, as often there was, we would ask them to pray for us. We are all praying to the same God, just in different ways.”
I checked on Karin again. She was half asleep. I told her that Kim was here. She nodded.
“Do you want to bedroom door shut?”
“It doesn’t matter”, and she rolled over and clutched her pillow.
We took Asher to Karin’s craft studio, so he could play on a blanket on the floor. I laid down next to him. He kicked his legs and waved his arms. I rolled him over, so that he could do some “tummy time”.
Kim watched. She said,
“My knees are bad. I can’t be down there with you too much.”
After three hours, I told Kim,
“We’re okay now. You can go if you like.”
She gave me a concerned look and asked,
“Are you sure?”
I nodded, “Yeah. We’re good.”
Hours after Kim left our home, she contacted me. I think she left a voicemail. In any case, she told me that she wakes up quite early. Kim said that if Karin was still sick in the morning, that I should call her and she would come over to us again.
Karin was better the next day. She wasn’t completely healthy again, but we could manage on our own. I did not call Kim. It’s a long drive for her.
Karin never saw Kim or spoke with her.
They should get together.