by Kenneth Justice
~“My husband had open heart surgery in 1985….he lived another 16 years” she said
I arrived to the Airport early today for my flight and found the only sit-down café in the terminal….the place was eerily quiet…I was the only customer. I asked the Barista if it was difficult having to work on slow days like this and the next thing I knew she had come over to my table and we began talking for the better part of an hour.
Born in Michigan she moved to Georgia 30 years ago when she found her ‘true love’. It sounds like she was very much in love with her husband because each time she mentioned him…her eyes got a little bit glassy. “Today, January 12th is actually the anniversary of his death” she said, “He died in 2001”.
When I asked her what brought her back to Michigan after being away from here for more than three decades her story turned a tad bit for the worst. Without getting into the private details….I’ll just say that following the death of her husband she got into a bad relationship. And so basically, she came back to Michigan as a matter of running away from the guy.
It wasn’t just a bad relationship either…..after Barbara’s husband died; the relatives in Georgia pretty much abandoned her…..and after one bad thing led to another; a couple years ago she found herself living in a homeless shelter just outside of Detroit.
I can’t imagine what must have been going on in her mind. Here she was a woman in her early fifties, married for nearly 25 years…and a mere few years after her husband died she found herself abandoned by her relatives and living in a homeless shelter….what the hell?
But unlike a Shakespearean tragedy….Barbara’s story is filled with a tremendous amount of hope, courage, and determination.
While she was living in the homeless shelter it was there that she met a woman who would become her best friend. The woman (who has a young child that affectionately calls Barbara ‘Aunt’) and Barbara pooled their money together and got a place to live. Barbara told me how she got the job here at the airport café,
“I don’t own a car so I had to walk three miles from my house to the airport in the snow for the interview” she said, “when the interviewer found out I didn’t have my own transportation they turned me down for the job”……however, “A few months later my best friend got a car and that allowed me to finally get hired in at the airport…….but I haven’t told my boss that the engine recently conked out so for the last couple months I’ve been walking the three miles to work every day”
Her shift begins at 3:30 AM so she gets up at 1:30 AM to get ready to make the walk to work.
“Barbara” I asked, “Holy cow, I can’t imagine what must be going through your mind…. You were married, owned a successful company with your husband in Georgia….and now all these years later you are walking 3 miles in the freezing temperatures of Michigan to work at an airport coffee shop?”
“Well, you gotta do, what you gotta do to survive” she said
When I asked her if I could quote her on that…..it ended up leading to me telling her about my Drinking in the Culture Tour……Barbara doesn’t have an email address but she made me write down her mailing address in order for me to send her a printed copy of this article
We live in a world that can be really tough……I’ll be honest with you. Even though I used to work as a counselor at a homeless shelter; I can’t imagine what it must be like emotionally and psychologically to go from having it all (i.e. a great job and a husband whom she loved) to find yourself in your mid-fifties and living in a homeless shelter…..abandoned by most of your relatives.
Barbara’s story is one I will take to heart, it’s a story I will tell my children because it’s a story that people need to hear. There are so many things in the world that exist to tear us down and break our will and determination……..but like I wrote a couple days ago we must cling to the hope that tomorrow is going to get better.
—) Yes, the economy sucks
—) Yes, a lot of politicians are corrupt
—) Yes, sometimes it looks like the darkness is going to overwhelm us
But we can’t lose hope….perhaps tomorrow the sun is going to shine.
Barbara and her friend are moving to Florida, “my friend is leaving in a couple months and I’m going to come down with my niece after she finds us a place to stay. I think the time is right to make a new change for the three of us” she said….I thought it was beautiful that she referred to her friend’s child as ‘niece’ as a natural manner of her speech. Even though they aren’t blood relatives…..the three of them must have formed a bond while living in that homeless shelter that is even thicker than blood.
So my Drinking in the Culture Tour has begun….and I haven’t even boarded the plane yet…….however I just finished my first cup of coffee.
(p.s. in an unusual twist to my normal blogging routine….the picture above is actually a photo of the real life Barbara whom I met)
(p.s. I’m in Costa Rica right now but Internet is a bit spotty here in Costa Rica at times, it took me awhile to find WIFI this morning, but I will be posting more articles today when I find another café that has WIFI