May 12, 2006

faith in action

when i moved back to texas in the fall of 2002, i was a mess. newly divorced, grotesquely overweight, and at the time, not a friend in the world. depression isn't big enough to describe the rut i was in. hopeless doesn't even come close. all my woes and worries paralyzed me, and i was just buying time each day waiting for things to improve or the anxiety to swallow me whole.

i told myself i would just get home to texas. i would deal with what i was given on any given day. onward and upward, it sure as fuck wouldn't be getting any worse. so i settled, i got the boys in school and began looking for office space.

now it's hard feigning confidence when your insides are in shambles, even harder convincing folks to trust you with their money when you don't know how you'll pay your rent. but fact was, god had opened all the doors to get me home to texas and i wasn't going to stand idly by while my opportunity evaporated.

one very grey morning in the hill country, i went up to a row of homes to deliver some sort of sales literature. maybe the cd rates, maybe my business card, i really can't remember. i parked my car and walked to the top of a giant hill, thinking all the way if i can't get a new client, maybe i'll lose some weight. like i said, bleak thoughts occupied my mind pretty consistently. i must have stopped by 10 houses, every one vacant. the dogs were cursing me behind giant doors as i shlepped my disheveled ass down the block.

halfway down the sloping street, the clouds opened up and began pelting me with giant raindrops. there was nowhere to run, so i steadied my mope. once back at the car, i opened the door and saw a lone porch light on.

why not? i thought, and approached and knocked. a frail little woman opened her door and hastily rushed me in. "just what are you doing out in this weather?" she asked. i explained i was new in the area and starting my business and really just meant to get out and meet my neighbors when the storm seemed to be telling me to go ahead home.

i can hear her in my mind as if it were yesterday, "well that is interesting, because i don't believe that's what this storm is for. i hope you don't think this is weird, but i believe god brings people into your life for a reason. there are no coincidences, only fate."

she made me some coffee and asked if i would look at her finances. to which, of course, i complied.

she had a 90 page statement, one of the most frightening i had ever seen. she was 85 years old and invested 95% in tech stocks. straight tech stocks, most i had never heard of, and the damage was pretty evident. it was 2002 at the bottom of the market and printed clearly on those pages was her dissent from the 1.2 million dollar range down to the current worth of just under 400k.

within a week, she transferred what remained of her investments to me. we began a relationship, one that i felt was a true gift from god. not just because i needed her so much at that point, but moreso because she needed me.

i soon learned she was widowed years ago. since her husband and she had moved to texas post retirement, their entire family lived in and around chicago. she had very few friends, save for a "texas grandson"-a non relative that had set up shop bilking her for all she was worth under the auspices of being like family, her only family so far from home.

the closer i got to her, the more static that developed between the three of us. he showered her with attention and gratitude and was very cautious about letting me close. she had an enormous heart and deeper pockets, and was just lonely enough not to see that some love comes at a steep price.

initially, i think the "texas grandson" liked me. i think he thought i could explain away her losses as her ex broker's mistakes. but it became evident pretty quickly that she had withdrawn money faster than the dot coms went dot bomb.

shades of grey. there are no laws to protect a person from being conned out of their money. if you willingly write a check to someone who has no qualms with cashing it, well that is your business, and because of confidentiality, no one else's. fact was, i knew she was slipping, aging into darkness, not sharp and not able to see what was obvious to any bystander. even though i knew she had an enormous family, it would have been illegal for me to share personal financial information with any of them.

i can't tell you how much i worried about this woman's well being. she trusted me to help her but was deaf to my advice. her mind giving out was intensifying and she became almost hateful towards her family simply because they weren't there day to day. she forgot she loved them and they her.

finally, a couple of years ago, her german neighbor called my office. my sweet client being absent of mind had walked up that same sloping hill in nothing but a nightgown. once halfway up the hill to post office box, she lost her way and had no idea where she was going or how to get home.

i called her son. initially he was sore, thinking his mother had basically disowned he and his whole family. falling in love, so it seemed, with a man half her age. he knew his father was turning in his grave at what she had done with his life's savings. the biggest surprise to me being, they already knew.

people's perspectives get in the way of reality. i never had to disclose a thing about her finances. i urged him to come see his mother and see for himself that she wasn't there anymore. no matter what had transpired in the years since his father died, her mind was worn but her heart was pure gold.

he caught a flight that weekend and saw how ill she had become. within a month, he and his son, her REAL grandson, were there to pack her things and move her home. they stayed for nearly two weeks making arrangements. they took her out to eat, to church, to the beauty shop. just the simple attention shaved years off her disintegrating health, and she beamed like a school girl being doted after by the most handsome men she'd ever laid eyes on.

a year and a half has elapsed since she moved. i got the call this morning, she passed away last night. i tried to keep a dry face through the phone call, but it proved impossible. there's just no way not to mourn the loss of a person like her.

god bless you, miss jean. you were right. god knows your investment in me meant more than any investment i ever made for you.

Posted by shoe at May 12, 2006 11:57 PM | TrackBack

Every once in a while I wonder why I waste so much time on this Bloggity Nonsense. Then I read a post like this one and I think, "If it had not been for blogging, I never would have met this Shoe woman - I would never even know that she exists." But I have, and I do, and my life is the richer for it.

Posted by: Elisson at May 13, 2006 06:45 AM

Nice story, Shoe. Miss Jean sounds mighty sweet.

Posted by: Lisa W. at May 13, 2006 07:36 AM

Miss Jean was not the only one with a heart of pure gold.

I am so proud to know you!

Much love, my dear friend.

Posted by: Christina at May 13, 2006 08:19 AM

... what Elisson said, dear... you are a wonderful woman.... and I am sorry that you have lost the earthly Miss Jean... you do, however, have her with you always in other ways....

Posted by: Eric at May 13, 2006 10:52 AM

Great story! I despise people who take advantage of old folks like the "Texas grandson". What an asshole!

Posted by: Denny at May 13, 2006 12:57 PM

And what a blessing you were to her as well. Thank you for sharing the story with us... :)

Posted by: Richmond at May 13, 2006 05:11 PM

{hugs} for the loss of a fine woman. People drift in and out of our lives for a reason. You were hers and she was yours when you needed each other the most. How wonderful you were able to share some fleeting moments with her. How wonderful that she impacted your life in ways she will never know.

Posted by: Oddybobo at May 13, 2006 07:27 PM

Yes my dear, you make a mom very proud. Happy Mother's Day precious!

Posted by: Zapatamama at May 13, 2006 07:28 PM

Great story, Shoe. You're good peeps.

Posted by: Jim - PRS at May 13, 2006 08:25 PM

Hugs honey! great story about 2 great ladies!

Posted by: livey at May 13, 2006 09:25 PM

What a wonderful story - thank you for sharing it.

Posted by: beth donovan at May 13, 2006 09:30 PM

shoe, I am so sorry for your loss. Please know, if there is anything I can do, call me.


Posted by: Walrilla at May 13, 2006 09:33 PM

"By grace are you saved through faith ..." But in this case it was YOUR faith and God's grace that saved a dear lady. Thank you, Shoe. May God bless you as you've blessed us.

Posted by: Bob at May 13, 2006 11:49 PM

Great story Shoe-baby. Like Elisson said, I'm glad I know you. You're one of the good guys.

Posted by: Dash at May 14, 2006 08:09 PM

You're a true gem and I am glad you're in Texas!

Posted by: marcus at May 15, 2006 06:53 AM

Dang now, that hit's kinda close to home for me at present. Y'all were damned lucky to know each other, and realize you each could help the other out. Ellison hit it out of the park, and so did you with gettin' the real relatives to realize the situation. I can vouch... that ain't an easy thing to do... sometimes even when they see the situation with their own eyes. You done good girl. Now pass that on the them boys of yours...

Posted by: RedNeck at May 15, 2006 08:13 PM

I love this post and I'm so sorry for your loss. I believe as your friend did... people are put in our lives for a reason. As someone close to me says, we are in a tapestry, interwoven amongst each other. I'm just glad she was with family.

Posted by: Bou at May 16, 2006 08:40 PM

"Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family." Proverbs 18:24.(MSG) You are a friend to be cherished by all who call you friend.

Great story. Thanks for sharing._Joe

Posted by: Joe Rose at May 17, 2006 11:11 AM